The narrative of the last three plagues—locusts, darkness, and the death of the Egyptian firstborn—begins this week. This concludes chapter 11 of Shemot in Exodus.
Chapter 12 then starts with a narrative that seems somewhat out of context. It begins by stating that the month of Nisan, the month of Freedom, the month of Pesach, will now become the first month of the year. Since the people of Israel now have control over their time as they are no longer slaves, they must organize themselves according to the Mitzvot, according to the designs of the Kadosh Baruch Hu, distinguishing sacred and profane times, and thus ordering each of the years and each of the months.
This message concludes much later when the Sanhedrin designates two witnesses to commence each of the months. How did they do this? By observing the Moon. The moment the two witnesses observed that there was a new moon, it was established that Rosh Chodesh, the beginning of the month, had started. And this is fundamental to our tradition. While the laws, of course, come from the Torah, from the Kadosh Baruch Hu, it is humans who ultimately implement them. It is observation, discussion, dissent, and consensus that determine how we carry out each of the Mitzvot.
And why does this message appear just after the description of the ninth plague, the one in which darkness was almost tangible for the Egyptians, so much so that a person couldn't see another even when standing in front? It is us, every individual, Jew or not, who is responsible for bringing more and more light to this world. Every human being is responsible. We, as the people of Israel, take on the commitment to do so through the Mitzvot. In this way, we bring our own light to this world—the light that is achieved precisely through the consensus of disagreements within the construction of a better world.
In times of despair, when it's hard to see the light and the way out, let us draw inspiration from the Parasha of the week. Let us value and remember that unity, enlightenment, attempts to educate, and persistence are powerful weapons against ignorance and hatred. History teaches us that resilience and obstinacy in achieving noble goals can overcome darkness.
In Parshat Bo, after the last plague, the death of the firstborn Pharaoh and the Egyptians demand that the people of Israel leave Egypt. Let us continue demanding the release of the hostages kidnapped by Hamas, keeping in mind that the very existence of Medinat Israel and the entire People of Israel is being tested in this fateful hour.
The recovery of the kidnapped goes beyond the physical; it does not free us from our duty to continue raising our voices with determination to confront growing antisemitism. The defense of our right to the Land of Israel is not only an act of cultural preservation but also a call to universal justice in which terrorism is not the weapon one people should use against another.
Let us trust in this, despite all adversities, we will overcome this moment together and see the light at the end of the tunnel. The light in which no darkness allows us to stop perceiving the one who is in front of us, no matter what religion, origin or belief it may have.
Rabbi Gustavo Geier