June 18, 2024
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Parashat Bo begins with Hashem’s message to Moshe concerning Pharaoh and the Egyptians, whereas the rest of the parasha focuses on instructions particular for Am Yisrael. Here we find a turning point in history. Until now the history of Am Yisrael has been presented together with that of the world at large. At the eve of their redemption, it is imperative that they see themselves as separate and distinct from the nation around them. The haftarah selected for this week (Yirmiyahu 46:13–28) is one of the first prophecies delivered by the prophet to other nations, and like the parasha, contains both universal and particular themes. The first part of Yirmiyahu’s prophecy (v. 13–26) is universally addressed to Egypt and the entire world, while the concluding two pesukim contain a special message concerning the destiny of Am Yisrael: “…For I am with you, for I shall make an end of all the nations… but I will not make an end of you.” This echoes the contrast Hashem made during the plagues of darkness and death of the firstborn, “In order that you shall know that God separates between Egypt and Israel” (Shemot 11:7).

As opposed to the parasha which focuses on the distinction of Am Yisrael, the haftarah teaches that Hashem, as the God of the entire world, continues to deliver messages to all the nations throughout history. This time, on the eve of destruction and exile, Yirmiyahu the prophet must come and prepare the nation for their new reality of dispersion amidst the nations. The haftarah serves as contrasting parshanut for the parasha; Yetziat Mitzrayim is being reversed as Am Yisrael returns to a state of exile. Am Yisrael must be reminded that they have a role to play among the nations, i.e. the spreading of God’s name. The haftarah therefore, focuses on the universal component as found in the beginning of Parashat Bo.

Although the haftarah contains similar themes, the plagues described by Yirmiyahu that will befall Egypt come from the nation of the north and not directly from Hashem as described in the parasha. Nonetheless, the prophet warns that the warriors of Egypt will not be able to withstand their invaders “because God thrust him down” (15). Here we once again find parshanut on the parasha: When Pharaoh declared “I do not know God’s name,” Hashem sent direct and overt plagues so that the nations would universally recognize God’s “outstretched arm” and His guidance of the world. Yirmiyahu’s prophecy indicates that by his time, God’s name is already known and His hand may be detected even through natural phenomena and human actions.

The concluding pesukim of the haftarah emphasize that even amidst the prophecies concerning the nations and the universalistic trend which they represent, the uniqueness of Am Yisrael will be maintained. Anticipating the fears of the nation on the eve of exile, the prophet promises: “And you, My servant Yaakov, do not be afraid, and do not fear, O Israel, for I will save you from afar and your seed from the land of their captivity. And Yaakov shall return and shall be quiet and at ease, with none to make him afraid. And you, My servant Yaakov, do not fear, says the Lord, for I am with you, for I shall make an end of all the nations where I have driven you, but I will not make an end of you…” (v. 27–28)


Rabbanit Shani Taragin is educational director of World Mizrachi and the director of the Mizrachi-TVA Lapidot Educators’ Program. She is a member of Mizrachi’s Speakers Bureau (www.mizrachi.org/speakers).

 

  • The RZA-Mizrachi is a broad Religious Zionist organization without a particular political affiliation.
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