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Parashat Bo - Retelling the Story

Retelling the Story

Further thoughts on Parashat Bo...

by John J. Parsons

In our Torah portion this week we are commanded to retell "in the hearing of your son and your grandson" how the LORD overthrew the arrogance of the Egyptians and performed wonders to deliver us" (Exod. 10:2). This commandment is the basis of the Passover haggadah (i.e., הַגָּדָה, "telling"), the "oral tradition" of our faith, when we personally retell the story from generation to generation so that the spirit of the message is not lost. We participate in the seder to make it "our own story," a part of who we are. Therefore b'khol-dor vador: "Every Jew must consider himself to have been personally redeemed from Egypt." Retelling the story of the exodus enables us to "know that I am the LORD" (Exod. 10:2). We recall the words, bishvili nivra ha'olam – "For my sake was this world created," while we also recall the words, anokhi afar ve'efer – "I am but dust and ashes." When we retell the story of the great redemption, we strengthen our faith and better know the LORD.

The LORD admonishes that the story of our redemption should be "as a sign on your hand and as a memorial (זִכָּרוֹן) between your eyes, that the Torah of the LORD may be in your mouth" (Exod. 13:9). We are instructed to "remember" (זָכַר) over and over again because our disease, our sickness of heart, induces us to forget how we were enslaved in the house of bondage. We must consciously remember and never forget that only by means of God's strong hand (בְּיָד חֲזָקָה) are we ever made free (John 8:36).

וְהָיָה לְךָ לְאוֹת עַל־יָדְךָ
וּלְזִכָּרוֹן בֵּין עֵינֶיךָ
לְמַעַן תִּהְיֶה תּוֹרַת יְהוָה בְּפִיךָ
כִּי בְּיָד חֲזָקָה הוֹצִאֲךָ יְהוָה מִמִּצְרָיִם

ve·ha·yah · le·kha · le·ot · al · ya·de·kha
ul·zik·ka·ron · bein · ei·ne·kha
le·ma·an · ti·he·yeh · to·rat · Adonai · be·fi·kha
ki · be·yad · cha·za·kah · ho·tzi·a·kha · Adonai · mi·mitz·ra·im

"And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand
and for a memorial between your eyes,
that the Torah of the LORD may be in your mouth.
For with a strong hand the LORD has brought you out of Egypt."
(Exod. 13:9)


In this connection, the traditional haggadah describes four kinds of "children" at the seder table. First is the child who is unable to ask, or who doesn't understand that there is a question about the meaning of the seder (she'eilo yodea lishol). Second is a simple child who goes along with the seder but does not bother to look beneath the surface to find its meaning and relevance. The third child is rasha - alienated and distant - a stranger at the table who wants to hear a different story rather than the one being told. Finally, the wise child (chakham) humbly asks, seeks, and desires to understand the mystery and the truth about Passover. The wise child's questions lead to answers that lead to yet other questions, and so the meaning of the redemption belongs to him...  By extension, since Yeshua is indeed the Lamb of God, the true Substance of the meaning of Passover, we must ask and answer the question, "Were you there when they crucified our LORD?"

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