Questions and Concepts for Parsha Bo
(Exodus 10:1-13:16)

In this parsha, the final three plagues come upon Egypt. In the opening verses, God seems to add more impetus to what is about to occur, stating that He is going to make a "mockery" of Egypt that would show (everyone) that He is God. These last three plagues may be seen as having an "additional supernatural quality" to them.

The plague of locust may not on the surface look much different than the previous seven, but according to Jewish tradition this plague ties in directly to 10:2; " that you may relate in the ears of your son and your son's son..." The "additional supernatural quality" to this plague was not what occurred at that time (though it was devastating), but in future generations as a "witness" to this particular plague.

The explanation is found in a commentary on Exodus, called Kli Yahar, which relates the following:

However, an impression of the plague of locusts remained for generations, even after the removal of the plague. Years later generations will see a novel thing: they will see locusts coming to Egypt and not eating any of Egypt's produce. Then the children would certainly ask about this miracle - why the locusts do not consume Egypt's produce, only the produce of the land of Israel. Perforce, you will be compelled to recount for them the story of all the events that occurred in the land of Egypt. For this reason, Moshe said when removing the plague of locusts that locusts would not remain in all the borders of Egypt (10:19) and as a result of this they would recount the miracles of Egypt and recognize the power of God's sovereignty.

The subsequent plague of darkness had a more obvious "miraculous" aspect to it as not only were the Egyptians subjected to total darkness even during the normal daytime hours, but the Jewish people in Goshen were not.

There is an additional aspect to this ninth plague however, not mentioned in the text of the Torah that serves as a frightening lesson. Note how it is only after this ninth plague that God tells Moses to "get the people ready to go" (11:1-2). What happened at the time of this plague that made ready the Children of Israel?

It is well known throughout many Jewish writings that not "all of Israel" emerged from Egypt. The people had sunk to such a low level that God killed 80 percent of them during this ninth plague. (Another reason it was done at that time was so that the Egyptians would not see this occurring.) So when we speak of a large number of Hebrews leaving Egypt, know that four times that many never made it out.

(It is a deep and shocking "coincidence" that modern polls show approximately 80 percent of the current Israeli Jewish adult population has little regard for keeping Torah.)

The final plague, death of the first born has deep mystical implications and clearly indicated the miraculous in action. How could every first born of Egypt, including their animals, perish - yet none of Israel? (The sole exception to this was Pharaoh himself, who was spared by God.)

There are some difficult questions to ponder relating to this last plague.

  • Was it God that killed the first born or an angel called "the destroyer?"
  • If God Himself was performing this action, why was there a need to mark the doors with blood? Could not God determine which were the homes of His people and which were not?
  • Was the action of killing a lamb (an object of worship in Egypt) a way of proving one's faith to God?

(Those familiar with Hebrew Kabbalah, specifically the Sefirotic Tree of Life structure, will note that the first seven plagues correspond to the lower "earthly" Sefirot and the last three to the upper Sefirot of Binah, Chokhmah and Keter. This is beyond the scope of this teaching however.)