Bo (Exodus 10:1 – 13:16)

Happy birthday, Roz and Mozart!  It is thus most appropriate that today we consider Parashat Bo, the Torah portion that depicts the Exodus, which might be considered the birth of the Israelite people.  In fact, as I noted 2 years ago here, an interpretation of the bloody marking on the Israelites’ doors is that it’s a symbol of birth – the home as womb, the door as a birth portal (R. Michael Hattin ( ) .  

But I am getting ahead of the story.  We still have three plagues left:  locusts, darkness, and the slaying of the firstborn.  After the hail destroys most of the crops, swarms of locusts come to finish it off.  Pharaoh then offers to let the Israelites go worship in the wilderness as long as only the men go, getting an inkling that all this chaos is probably not intended for them to have a mere 3-day jaunt.  Of course, the offer is not enough, and he reneges anyway after the plague is lifted.  After the plague of darkness, Pharaoh appears to be weakening a bit more, agreeing to let the Israelites go, as long as they leave their livestock in Egypt.  No dice.  Then, as we know, Egypt is hit with the final plague, the slaying of the firstborn, and in the ensuing chaos, the Israelites leave Egypt and slavery.

Like many of the plagues, the plague of locusts can be regarded as a natural phenomenon of unnatural proportion and timing, and there have been various convoluted theories concerning the death of the firstborn ( Marr JS, Malloy CD. “An epidemiologic analysis of the ten plagues of Egypt,”. Caduceus (Springfield, Ill. 1996 Spring;12(1):7–24. See ).  The plague of darkness, however, is something else.  While there are possible natural explanations put forth, e.g., a sandstorm  caused by a khamsin (a hot, southerly wind – see Marr and Malloy), the rabbinic commentators agree that this is not a natural darkness, i.e., a night-like absence of light, specifically focusing on the phrase, “V’yamesh hoshekh” (Ch. 10:21), “a darkness that can be touched” (JPS) or “the darkness will become darker” (ArtScroll series).  Ramban (Nachmanides) writes that this is a darkness in which lamps and candles are useless.  Rashi gives three interpretations of the phrase: the darkness will be so thick it’s tangible, it will become darker than the night, and it will persist.  Further, it will physically paralyze the Egyptians.  Another interpretation is that the darkness will be akin to the primordial darkness of the chaos preceding creation or, it’s a taste of hell (Midrash,  Exodus Rabbah).  What all this brings to mind (at least to my mind) is this text concerning the Black Death from Barbara Tuchman’s 1978 book, A Distant Mirror – The Calamitous 14th Century:

          “And no bells tolled,” wrote a chronicler of Siena, “and nobody wept no matter what his loss because almost everyone expected death….And people said and believed, ‘This is the end of the world.'” (pp. 95 and 625)

More than a physical absence of light, this is a darkness of the soul, a mass depression characterized by paralysis, isolation, and a total lack of hope.  In contrast, the Israelites “enjoyed light in their dwellings” (10:23), both physical and emotional, as they hurriedly prepared for their exodus from Egypt and slavery.  The sense of anticipation is reinforced by their receiving instructions on how to observe, not just this first Passover, but all the others yet to come.  And once they leave Egypt, they learn about consecrating the firstborn, tzitzit (ritual fringes) and tefillin.  And they haven’t even crossed the Re(e)d Sea yet.  That’s next week.

Shabbat shalom,



Grasshopper Jokes and Quotes

A Texan in Australia A Texan farmer goes to Australia for a vacation. There he meets an Aussie farmer and gets talking. The Aussie shows off his big wheat field and the Texan says, “Oh! We have wheat fields that are at least twice as large”.  Then they walk around the ranch a little, and the Aussie shows off his herd of cattle. The Texan immediately says, “We have longhorns that are at least twice as large as your cows”. The conversation has, meanwhile, almost died when the Texan sees a herd of kangaroos hopping through the field. He asks, “And what are those”? The Aussie replies with an incredulous look,
“Don’t you have any grasshoppers in Texas”?

Why would you swallow a grasshoppers? So you could have internal locust of control.

A grasshoppers walks into a bar. The bar tender says to him, “Hey we have drink named after you.” The grasshoppers replies, “You have a drink named Murry?”

One minister was teaching a fifth grade Sunday School class about the life of John.  He told how John had lived in the wilderness with little or nothing to eat.  He commented that John had eaten only honey and locusts.  A little girl asked what locusts are.  The minister said, “A locust is a grasshopper”  The little girl said, “Oh, my grandmother drinks those.”


George Carlin Quotes 

“They say that instead of cursing the darkness, one should light a candle. Nothing is mentioned, though, about cursing a lack of candles.”
George Carlin

I’m not concerned about all hell breaking loose, but that a PART of hell will break loose… it’ll be much harder to detect.

Weather forecast for tonight: dark. Continued dark overnight, with widely scattered light by morning.

See Al Sleet, the Hippy Dippy Weatherman on youtube,


From 2002

An account of the Exodus from the “Extremely Reform Passover Haggadah” in

How to Be an Extremely Reform Jew by David M. Bader, Jeff Moores (Illustrator):


And the Eternal brought us forth from Egypt, not by the hand of an angel, not by

the hand of a seraph, not by the hand of a messenger, not by the hand of Alan Dershowitz,

but by Himself, in His glory and in His Self, as it is written: “And I will

pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and I will smite all the

first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast, and against all the gods of Egypt

I will execute judgment. It is I the Eternal and not an angel, I and not a seraph, I and not a

messenger, I and not Alan Dershowitz.”


And the children of Israel girded up their loins and wrapped sackcloth around them,

for no particular reason. And then the children of Israel took coconuts and almonds and

chocolates and egg whites before they had leavened and bound them up in

their clothing. And they made macaroons of the coconuts and almonds and

chocolates and egg whites which they had brought forth from Egypt, as it is written:

“Bake for 20 minutes or until brown; let stand; serve when cool.” For they were thrust out

of Egypt and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any toll house cookies.


 In 2007, I wrote here about  a published patent application for a ritual garment with retractable tzitzit, U.S. 20060277646,  “Garment with retractable fringes”.  I thought I’d check back to see if a patent ever issued from the application.  Lo and behold, it issued on April 26, 2011 as U.S. Patent No. 7,930,769, “Garment with retractable fringes ” to one Thomas Stern of Brooklyn, New York.  It had been filed  on March 12, 2006. 

Here is allowed claim 1:

1. A garment to be worn by a person, wherein the garment has a fringe allowed to hang from the garment during the time of a normal wearing of the garment by the person, and the garment further comprises: a pocket having an entrance opening facing a site of attachment of the fringe to the garment, wherein one portion of the fringe is attached to the garment at the site of attachment, and the fringe hangs from the point of attachment to the garment during the time of a normal wearing of the garment; and a retraction cord located at least partially within the pocket, and having an end adapted to engage with a further portion of the fringe away from said one portion for drawing the fringe via the pocket entrance into the pocket upon activation of the retraction cord by the person; wherein the pocket and the retraction cord serve as a retraction mechanism for retraction of the fringe into the pocket for securing the fringe during a time other than the time of normal wearing of the garment by the person.

The abstract is somewhat more understandable:


A garment with fringes includes a pocket for securing a fringe, and a retraction cord terminating in a ring encircling the fringe for pulling the fringe into the pocket during a time when a freely hanging fringe is to be avoided. Preferably, an entrance to the pocket is provided with a circumferential resilient stiffening device to facilitate entry of the fringe into the pocket, and the entrance may be provided also with a closure, such as a snap, to prevent the fringe from falling out of the pocket. The entrance may be provided also with a closure, such as a snap, to prevent the fringe from falling out of the pocket. A tether may be provided attached to the ring to facilitate a pulling of the ring out of the pocket for the resumption of normal deployment of the fringe.

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