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In last week's parsha, (Vaeira), we read about the first seven plagues of Egypt, and we saw that Pharaoh persisted in not letting the Jewish nation leave Egypt and their bondage there. It is interesting to note that the first and last letters of the name Vaeira numerically add up to 7, which is the number of plagues in it. This parsha, parsha Bo, has first and last letters adding up to 3, the number of plagues contained in it.

In the first aliyah, Moshe and Aharon go again to Pharaoh at G-d's command and say to Pharaoh: "Od Masai" (until when) "will you refuse to humble yourself and let my people go?" They continue to say that if Pharaoh doesn't let them go, a plague of locusts will begin, and devour everything that yet remains from the previous plagues. They then leave, and Pharaoh's servants say to Pharaoh that he should please let them go already, they've had enough.

Moshe and Aharon are brought in again and Pharaoh said "Go, but leave your children." Moshe and Aharon then leave again.

The plague of locusts starts in the second aliyah. Never before or since have there been locusts like these in Mitzrayim. They ate absolutely everything that remained after the plague of hail.

Next, the plague of darkness. It was so dark, it could be felt. Those that were standing at the beginning of the darkness couldn't sit, and those that were sitting couldn't stand.

Rashi says another reason for the darkness is that the Jews who didn't want to leave Egypt, who were complacent with life there, died in the darkness to hide that source of shame of the Jews from the Egyptians.

Now, as we are on the brink of the final redemption, let's all want Moshiach now. A story is told of a Mashpia - Chassidic Mentor - in Russia having a secret farbrengen with his students in a darkened basement. Another student was looking for them and was invited in, but when he started down the stairs, he complained that the darkness in the basement made it difficult to progress. One of the students that was already in the basement called out to him that he should proceed down, because once you sit in darkness awhile you get used to it. The Mashpia heard this and said that that's the trouble with the darkness of exile too; the longer it goes on the better it looks.

In the third aliyah, after the terrifying days of darkness, Pharaoh calls Moshe again, but G-d hardens Pharaoh's heart again and so he sends Moshe away another time, this time saying to Moshe that Moshe won't see the face of Pharaoh anymore (which will turn out to be true).

Then G-d speaks to Moshe (right there) saying that there is one final plague to go, after which the Jews will be thrust out of Egypt. As preparation, all Jewish men should ask their men neighbors and all Jewish women should ask their women neighbors for jewels of silver and gold; and G-d made all the Egyptians agreeable.

In the fourth aliyah, Moshe warns Pharaoh about the plague of the first born, that the first born of the highest Egyptian (Pharaoh) to the lowest, and even the cattle, will die.

After that, G-d gives the first commandment: That of determining the new moon (Rosh Chodesh) and that the months begin with the month of Nissan. (According to Chassidut, everything that is going to happen in a seemingly natural manner, such as birth, sustenance etc., is determined on Rosh Hashanah, in the seventh month, while everything that is going to happen miraculously is determined on Pesach, which is in the month of Nissan, the first month.)

The commandment to take the Pesach lamb is given next, then the eating of Matzo and the prohibition of eating chometz on Pesach.

The Jews were to take the Pesach lamb into their houses four days before they were to slaughter it. The purpose of this was that the Egyptians should see this and ask: "What's going on with these sheep?" The Jews therefore answered without shame that they were going to slaughter them. This was a courageous act because the sheep were gods to the Egyptians!

This strength of character and mesiras nefesh (self-sacrifice) not to be intimidated by the Egyptians brought about the redemption from Egypt.

In the fifth aliyah Moshe talks to the Jews and instructs them to slaughter the Pesach lamb. In addition, they are to put blood of the lamb on the lintel and the two side posts as a sign to G-d to pass over the house when passing through Egypt to kill all the first-born of Egypt.

The sixth aliyah contains the tenth plague: the slaying of the first- born. At midnight G-d passes through Egypt slaying all the first born of everyone from Pharaoh down to the captives in the dungeon, and a very great cry is heard throughout Egypt.

Pharaoh arose and searched for Moshe and said, "Go serve your G-d and pray for me" (because Pharaoh was also a first born).

The Jews ask their Egyptian neighbors for silver and gold vessels and the Egyptians cooperated so much that they gave double what was asked for. The Jews left Egypt hurriedly without their bread leavening.

We observe our first Passover Seder on the same night (of each year) as this redemption took place. The first Seder night is considered a "night of watching", and is to be considered so forever (it is guarded for all time against evil doers).

The seventh aliyah contains the mitzvahs of "Pidyon ha-ben", the redemption of the first born son, and of tefillin. This section of Torah is one of the sections written on the parchment inside tefillin, and is recited by some while wearing the tefillin (as seen on page 85 of the siddur Tehillat Hashem).


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