Parshat Bo–The Torah Begins!

Rashi begins his monumental commentary on Tanach with the statement that according to Rabbi Yitzchak the Torah should actually begin 6/7th through Parshat Bo! Shemot, Chapter 12, verse 2 states, …הַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה לָכֶם רֹאשׁ חֳדָשִׁים (HaChodesh Hazeh L’chem Rosh Chadashim….). “This month will be for you the beginning of months…” is the first מצוה (Mitzvah), commandment (binding precept) given to the Jewish people as a nation. Rashi, anticipating the political realities of more than 1,000 years in the future, explains that the Torah began at Bereishit in order to refute those who deny the Jewish People our connection with the Land of Israel. Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo (and many others), explain that we necessarily must learn about humanity before fixing a body of laws.

Bo is also special in that we read the seventh aliyah every weekday (after donning the tefillin). These two short paragraphs, along with the first two paragraphs of the Shema, which we say twice daily, make up the four paragraphs embedded in our tefillin, whose obvious symbolism is to bind our physical beings to The Creator. Tefillin, although the mitzva is ‘officially’ commanded much later (in Devarim 6:8,  וּקְשַׁרְתָּם לְאוֹת עַל־יָדֶךָ וְהָיוּ לְטֹטָפֹת בֵּין עֵינֶיךָ, “And you shall tie them as a sign on your arm and as ‘totefot‘ between your eyes”), are referred to twice in this aliyah (Shemot 13:9, 16), וְהָיָה לְךָ לְאוֹת עַל־יָדְךָ וּלְזִכָּרוֹן בֵּין עֵינֶיךָ לְמַעַן תִּהְיֶה תּוֹרַת יְהוָֹה בְּפִיךָ כִּי בְּיָד חֲזָקָה הוֹצִאֲךָ יְהוָֹה מִמִּצְרָיִם “And it will be for you for a sign on your hand and a reminder between your eyes so that God’s Torah will be in your mouth because God extracted you from Egypt with a strong hand” and וְהָיָה לְאוֹת עַל־יָדְכָה וּלְטוֹטָפֹת בֵּין עֵינֶיךָ כִּי בְּחֹזֶק יָד הוֹצִיאָנוּ יְהוָֹה מִמִּצְרָיִם, “And it will be a sign on your hand and ‘totefot‘ between your eyes because God extracted us from Egypt with a strong hand”.

We’re given explanations for tefillin long before we’re given the actual commandment, much like we’re given the lessons from which we derive our values (in Sefer Bereishit) long before where Rashi indicates the Torah, that art/science of 613 modalities/mitzvot with which we approach and join with The Creator, really begins. Bo, בא, while a commandment to Moshe and Aharon, is for us an invitation to step into the future.

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