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Parshat Bo

Posted by rabbiart on April 21, 2008

The parsha this week is Bo. With this parsha we begin to get the traditional mitzvot for the Jewish people. Four of the mitzvot are found in Sefer Breshit; the rest are derived from the remaining four books of the Torah. In parshat Bo there are twenty mitzvot; nine positive and eleven negative. The mitzvot are listed down below; in this section we look at what it means (in the Jewish context) to be free.

One possible definition of freedom is that a free person can do whatever he or she wants without limitation. This can’t possibly be correct, because we share our planet with everyone else, and our actions can and almost always do affect others. As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote ““The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.” A second definition of freedom was expressed by Kris Kristofferson in the song “Me and Bobby McGee” as “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose”.

The Jewish meaning of freedom was already hinted at in chapter 10, verse 3, where Moshe and Aharon say to Pharoah “Thus says Adonai, G-d of the Hebrews, ‘let My people go, that they may serve Me’.” For Jews, the essential attribute of freedom is that we are now able to receive the Torah at Sinai, and learn how to live our lives partnering with G-d in completing the work of creation. The connection between the freedom we gain by escaping Mitzrayim and the revelation at Mt. Sinai is embodied in our practice of counting the Omer; the days between Pesach and the holiday of Shavuot.

Mitzvot in Parshat Bo

#4 to establish the months
#5 ritual slaying of the Pesach offering
#6 eating the Pesach offering
#7 not eating the Pesach offering slightly roasted or cooked
#8 not to leave offer any flesh of the Pesach offering
#9 to remove hametz
#10 eating matzah on Pesach
#11 having no hametz in our possession on Pesach
#12 not to eat anything containing hametz during Pesach
#13 not to give an apostate any of the Pesach offering to eat
#14 not to give any part of the Pesach offering to a partial proselyte nor a ger toshav
#15 not to take any part of the Pesach offering outside the home
#16 not to break any bone of the Pesach offering
#17 that no uncircumcised male should eat of the Pesach offering
#18 to sanctify the firstborn in the land of Israel
#19 not to eat any hametz during Pesach
#20 that no hametz should be seen with us during Pesach
#21 to recount the story of our escape from Mitzrayim
#22 to redeem a first-born donkey
#23 to break the neck of an unredeemed first-born donkey

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