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Perashat Bo 5778

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Perashat Bo 5778

Friday, January 19, 2018 Author: Rabbi Mimoun Miller

In this week's perasha the Torah describes the Exodus of Bene Yisrael from Egypt.

Most people are not aware that an overwhelming majority of Bene Yisrael did not leave Egypt. Rashi writes that only one out of five Israelites left, and four-fifths did not make it out [Mechilta, Tanhuma, Beshalah 1].

Those who stayed in Egypt did not leave because they were not included. The Exodus was destined for the entire nation. The commandment went forth to the entire assembly of Israel to place the sacrificial blood on the doorposts and join the journey through the desert to serve Hashem, ultimately leading them to the land of their forefathers. 

These Jewish slaves were asked to leave everything they knew to venture into the unknown. Many questions remained unanswered. Who would lead them? How would they survive in the desert? What power would they have to combat the entire Egyptian military should they be pursued? What would await them in the land of Canaan? How would they defeat the many nations that occupied it? All these questions, and probably many others, went through the minds of Pharaoh's slaves.

Paradoxically, there is an amount of certainty in the inferior status of a slave when all that is required of you is to work and ask no questions. A slave does not have to make any great decisions. A slave in Egypt doesn't have to worry where or what he will be able to eat in the barren desert. As these former slaves lamented in the Midbar, "We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt free of charge, the cucumbers, the watermelons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic" [Numbers 11:5].

Our perasha teaches us that freedom isn't just about the removal of the yoke of slavery from the neck, but it's also about taking responsibility for all that freedom entails. Freedom affords us the opportunity to make the right decisions. It allows us to seek and search for the correct and just path. It asks us to take the risks of decision making in which the desired results are not guaranteed. 

In freeing Bene Yisrael from the bonds of slavery, Hashem presented them with the freedom to worship Him which came with great responsibility. In accepting the Torah, the Israelite nation was shown the path to choose good over evil, to become a moral, just and upstanding people. This was the idea that all who decided to join the great journey recognized, and they said, "we will do, and we will listen". 

The Exodus from Egypt and the call to all who desire freedom continues to this day. But this call also includes the willingness to be obligated to all which this freedom requires. Even though we are not physically bound as slaves, if we do not heed the call of freedom of the mind, we will, Heaven forbid, still be slaves spiritually.

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