This Week’s Torah Portion – Parashat Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16)

I discuss the weekly Torah portion with Rabbi Rabbs Mondays at 7:00 pm PST on my cam and on YouTube. Facebook Fan Page.

This week we study Parashat Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16).

Watch the video.

* Rabbi Wein writes: “People who are released from bondage or any other type of incarceration usually find their adjustment to freedom difficult if not even very problematic. More often than not the look on their newly freed faces is one of bewilderment – of being in a dazed condition – rather than one of pure joy.”

As I start my new life as an Alexander Technique teacher, I’m often exhilarated and thrilled, but more often scared and anxious. I’m free of some of my previous forms of bondage but freedom is bewildering.

* Rabbi Berel Wein writes: “The entire story of the Torah regarding the redemption of the Jewish slaves from Egypt descends into a contest of wills. Pharaoh reaches the limit of his patience in this week’s parsha.”

Many contests in life come down to who can keep his cool. What does it mean to be poised? It means the neck is free and the head is balanced on top of a lengthened spine.

Pharoah could not have lost his temper without tensing his neck and pulling down. When you’re poised, you are by definition in control of your responses. You don’t want to live in reaction. You want to live in response.

I expect that Newt Gingrich’s temper will get the better of him and that’s why he won’t be president. By contrast, Obama and Romney are calm.

* Pharoah warns Moses not to come see him again. I’ve noticed in life that most people who issue warnings can’t back them up, but you want to be careful not to rile people who can back up their warnings.

Take the New York Giants. They’ve been backing up their words with performance on the field.

People who stay humble, like Moses, don’t do stupidly arrogant things. Full of themselves folks like the Pharoah are always coming to unhappy ends.

Narcissism is a protection from facing your shame but it cuts you off from other people.

* Rabbi Berel Wein writes: “He assesses that Moshe’s demands are not serious since he remains inflexible and not open to any compromise regarding them. He also apparently believes that Moshe has run out of plagues to visit on Egypt.”

Things usually can get worse. There often can be more plagues. And people who won’t compromise are just as often strong as weak.

* Most of the Jews did not leave Egypt. And almost all of the Jews who left Egypt died in the desert. So when people ask me why do so many Jews leave Judaism, I think they’re asking the wrong question. Judaism is difficult and against our nature. It should be taken for granted that in a free country most Jews are going to not live Orthodox Judaism.

* What Jews have now in America is the best Jews have ever had it in the diaspora. This is the exception in Jewish history. We’ll look back on this as a golden age even though most Jews are assimilating.

* Who’s gonna tell you when
It’s too late
Who’s gonna tell you things
Aren’t so great
You can’t go on
Thinking nothing’s wrong

* As you age, do your wrinkles curl up or down? A happy person has wrinkles that crinkle up. By age 50, most people are responsible for their face. Their choices are written there.

* My perception is that most Orthodox Jews are not happy and are not happy about being Jewish. Is this true? If so, what does it mean? Are a higher proportion of non-Orthodox Jews happy about being Jewish? Who are the happy Jews? Countless Orthodox Jews tell me, I was born into this. I’m stuck. But you chose it? That makes no sense.

* The Modern Orthodox enclave of Pico-Robertson 90035 seems happier to me than the more traditional Orthodox redoubt of Fairfax-La Brea.

* I see people quoting one aspect of Judaism as though it is the whole story. For instance, one common saying is “Judaism is about asking questions.” Well, try this out in Jewish life. See if rabbis are any more eager to field your questions than the clergy of any other religion. Judaism is all about asking questions only if you ask the questions it wants you to ask. There are plenty of questions you are discouraged from asking, such as about Biblical criticism.

* No accomplishment or victory is permanent. We can devote our lives to building up something only to have it fall apart. In fact, everything we build up will fall down and most likely in our lifetimes. That’s why it is good to focus on process rather than end-gaining. The Exodus didn’t settle things. It was only one chapter in a very long book. Israel, for instance, has a tenuous existence. It could disappear in a mushroom cloud tomorrow. What are the odds that Israel will be around in 30 years? I’d say 90%.

If you have a great marriage, one of you will die first and the other one will have to go on. So don’t say, “I can’t live without you” or you might not. We have a moral responsibility to stand on our own two feet. When you hug someone, don’t lean on them. (An exercise from the book Passionate Marriage).

* I spent some of my Sunday discussing women. But did I discuss their moral character? Did I discuss the oys and joys of love? Did I discuss what it takes to sustain a relationship? Not so much.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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