Bo: Go in
Shemot (Exodus) 10, 1 -
1. The first mitzva given in Egypt
2. The peshat (literal meaning) and the inner meaning
3. The link between liberation and the months of the
4. The linguistic meaning
5. Global renewal
6. The meaning of hodesh
7. The prototype of renewal: the relationship between
a man and a woman
8. Defining the month visually
9. Learning from nature
10. A lesson for men-women relationships
11. The art of being attentive
12. Being inattentive or reflective
13. Being a point of reflection for the other person
14. What nature teaches us about God's relationship
15. Luminous expansion
16. The need for intimacy
18. Not just a theory
19. Why every month?
20. The differences between the sexes: men's limitations
21. The differences between the sexes: women's richness
22. The differences between the sexes: equality through
23. The meaning of (temporary) privation
24. Israel, the symbol of woman and wife in the world
25. And in our people?
26. Exercise in intergration
27. Important references
28. Reading: Vocabulary
How to re-create and renew
the months of the year
and relationships between
husbands and wives
Parasha Bo continues with the last 3 plagues which lead to the
liberation of the children of Israel, sets out the injunctions
for the celebration of the festival of Pesah, and describes
the first wanderings of the people. This is when the 9 positive
mitzvot (mitzvot ase) and the 11 negative mitzvot (mitzvot lo
taase) are given.
The first mitzva given in Egypt
The first mitzva of this parasha is only the
4th one since the beginning of the Torah. In Shemot 12, 2, the
mitzva says: "This month shall be unto you the beginning
of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you."
Hahodesh haze lakhem rosh hodashim, rishon hu lehodesh hashana.
The peshat (literal meaning) and the inner meaning
The Shla notes that the literal meaning (peshat)
of this mitzva is a commandment to fix the dates of the months
and years, so that the festivals fall at the time they are due,
i.e. Pesah in Spring and Succot at harvest time.
The Shla also indicates that the inner meaning
is much broader, for this verse and mitzva refer to the relationship
between the moon and the sun, which links to the fact that
--- Adam harishon, Adam, the first man, had a double head with
--- the moon only gets its light from the sun,
--- the renewal of the month takes place when the moon is nearest
to the sun.
He invites readers to refer to his commentary
which is included in Tractate Pesah, for it will "fulfill
the desires of one's heart, michelot halev."
If you reflect on these points you will see that
they have a lot of meaning.
The link between liberation and the months of
In terms of liberation, the Torah could have
chosen to speak of any other value or concept than the fixation
of the beginning of the month: prayer, worship, morality, ritual,
sanctuary, etc. And, it should be note, it speaks only of what
is a month and how it should be fixed.
The linguistic meaning
At the peshat level, what is called in other
languages "month, mois, menso
." has a totally
different name in Hebrew: "hodesh, renewal." If the
Hebrew chooses this meaning for "month," it is because
"renewal" is considered as
--- a characteristic of the whole of the physical and human
--- an absolute necessity for nature and for humankind,
--- the essential element in God's plan.
Rabbenu Behya said about this verse, based on
the Rambam's commentary on Bereshit 1, 1, that
hidush haolam hu ikar haemuna
"the renewal of the world is the essence of faith and trust."
" Thus, Jews live in a world which is created;
they do not only live in nature, or in a world that has already
been made, they live in a process of "creation," of
" A dysfunction which takes place in one area (e.g. an
injustice), affects the entire functioning of the world; in
modern terms this is a holistic, gestalt, concept.
" The renewal of the process of creation applies simultaneously
to man, to nature, to relationships, and to politics.
" It is the actions of man which cause the improvement
or deterioration of all nature.
In view of all this, we can now understand why
the Hebrew designates as hodesh, "renewal" a process
which other cultures call "month" and which can appear
to be a purely "cyclical" process.
The message of hodesh
Shemot 12, 2, speaks of the new month and tells
us that it must be "the beginning of all beginnings."
This means that we are commanded to be attentive to this phenomenon
of nature in order to enable a total renewal of ourselves and
our normal habit of counting and evaluating.
We shall therefore look closely at this great
phenomenon in order to understand better what type of "change"
The prototype of renewal: the relationship between
husbands and wives
The Sages went much further:
" The Sages interpreted the above as referring
to the relationship between husbands and wives, and thus also
to the relationship between Hakadosh Barukh Hu and Israel; as
Rabbenu Bahya comments on this verse (hashekhina she hi koah
halevana, the shekhina which is the power of the moon). This
goes back to the first verse of the Torah: the creation is the
history of the creation of man and woman, whose relationship
is symbolized in the pairing of the heavens with the earth.
" The slowing down, blockages, failures in the positive
process of creation (bonding, help, complementarity, love, fertility,
face to face relationships or relationships from afar) have
all the characteristics of the relationship between husbands
" Understanding what the Torah teaches in this concept
of hodesh (month-renewal) in the example of nature, is to understand
the necessary condition, the starter for the entire process
of renewal of humanity. This is why it is said that "this
month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be
the first month of the year to you."
This is the basis and condition for the process
of renewal which will have to be constantly renewed, and expanded
with the beginning of each new month.
Defining the "month" visually
The Shla, basing himself on the discussions between
the Schools of Shammai and Hillel and the decisions of the Sages
in the Talmud (Tractate Rosh Hashana, pages 24-25), notes that
the fixation of the new month (likboa itim u zemanim) was always
determined by astonomical calculations, for the sky could be
covered in the land of Israel, or in the desert because of clouds
(anan) during the day and because of the column of fire (amud
haesh) at night, thus impeding visual observation.
Nonetheless, visual observation remains an essential
part of the pedagogic process, for it requires us to be attentive
and observe something closely in order to understand what is
happening. We must therefore be attentive to what is happening
visually in this phase of the beginning of the month, in order
not to make mistakes in the teaching we wish to transmit. Let's
begin our observation.
Learning from nature
" After the period when the light of the
moon diminishes, at the end of the month, there is the phenomenon
of the molad (the birth of the moon):
" The moon disappears
" The moon re-emerges in a delicate crescent
" The important point is that all this takes place at the
moment of greatest proximity between the moon and the sun.
A lesson for husbands and wives
The same holds true for husbands and wives. When
they undergo a period of separation or conflict (or the period
of nidda, say the Sages), a deep relationship can only be built
again through a process of mutual giving and emotional proximity,
which enables each partner to perceive the inner depths of the
The art of intimacy
The art of intimacy requires sensitivity, presence,
time, observation, feeling, listening to nuances, to what the
other is trying to say and feel, legitimizing it and trusting
in this emergence of something new in one's partner. This means
being able to see what is slowly and imperceptibly emerging
and developing, just like the "doe of the dawn."
This is for all time, as God did unto the house
of Jacob: "And even to your old age I am he, and even to
hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made and I will bear, even
I will carry and will deliver you" (Isaiah 46, 4).
It is this art which is taught in the verse:
ha hodesh haze lakhem, this renewal of the month for you.
Rabbenu Bahya adds: for you, that you will count
it, lakhem hu she tiyu monim bo.
Without this, true emergence and growth cannot
develop, to lead slowly and then totally to joy and happiness.
Being inattentive or reflective
It is this proximity and mutual sensitivity that
enables the light of another person to emerge.
This light is relational.
And this light, moreover, does not come from
ourselves for the moon can only illuminate through the reverberation
of the light of the sun.
If the sun sends its light through infinite space
and it is not absorbed, what is the use? The masculine-sun is
all radiance, and has no reflection one could say, and it is
only through the effect it (man) has on others, on the moon
(woman) that it discovers who it is, by seeing its reflection
in the mirror that is placed before it, if it is light or darkness,
if it is exploding, burning, destroying or if it is giving life
This is based on what Rabbenu Bahya said:
The moon is the prototype of woman in her creativity in this
halevana dugmat haisha bayetzira hatahtona
A man who is not attentive and sensitive towards
a woman, is like a sun without reflection and without self-knowledge:
for self-knowledge comes from the reflection one receives from
the other, just as with the molad at the beginning of the month.
Being a point of reflection for the other person
There can be no renewal or beginning (hodesh,
renewal-month) unless there is proximity, face to face encounter,
expression of what one sees and feels, just like the witnesses
who came testify what they had seen of the new moon and were
interrogated about it.
Being sensitive to the other is not a quick,
superficial thing ("I saw what you did, I heard and understood
what you said"): it is:
being with someone, listening for a long time,
without criticism, but with sensitivity, warmth, and absolute
Everything that one discovers can then be expressed
and transmitted back to the other person, in many appreciative
Just like the moon, if this does not take place,
then the process of "creation" begun by the Creator
cannot progress. The importance of harmony between husbands
and wives is so important that the Creator set before us a giant
screen and permanent reminder in the monthly relationship between
the moon and the sun who illuminate each other.
What nature teaches us about God's relationship
The Creator organized nature in such a way (the
pairing of the heavens and the earth, the moon and the sun)
that we would understand His relationship with us. The texts
describe the conjugal love of God for Israel which is present
in all the Torah and is condensed in Song of Songs 6, 10:
mi zot hanishkafa kemo shahar, yafa halevana, bara kahama
"Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as
the moon, clear as the sun?"
and in Isaiah 54, 5 which teaches man how to
emulate the Creator's loving attitude:
ki voalaikhe osaikh
"For thy Maker is thine husband."
Reflect on these verses in relation to the moon
and to yourself. You will now understand
" the meaning of the name "Modia"
in which Hashem makes himself known through the Torah (the Torah
scroll on the logo);
" and through nature (the big round circle on the main
" the person who knows how to open into the inner world
(click on the image), will discover light and the verses of
a loving relationship.
This loving relationship is an overflowing process,
which creates not only pleasure and happiness but also fertility,
an end to humiliation, shame, abuse, sadness, widowhood, as
is stated in Isaiah 54, 1-4 in relation to the sterile or abandoned
woman (read these verses). This is so much so, that the blessing
of the moon is made only at the end of Shabbat: after the great
spirituality between husband and wife, the joy and beauty of
the Shabbat home, clothes and utensils, one rises on one's toes
toward the moon (see Rabbenu Bahya on Shemot 12, 2).
The need for intimacy
In order to fully grasp the importance of all
this, it is said that when the Sages had to deliberate on any
change that had to be made in the calendar, such as adding months,
they did this in secret (sod haibur).
The same is so in human relationships: it is
important to create a ritual and an intimate space for the expression
of love and attention.
The same function is found in the period of nidda,
after which a husband and wife renew their relationship, on
condition that this is done with the same sensitivity and intention,
The precise details which are found in halakha
aim to maintain and preserve the quality of attentiveness in
a relationship and in the creative process. The literal meaning
of halakha is "walking" and the Sages noted that its
inner strength comes from the potential found in its letters
which, when re-arranged, mean hakala, "the bride."
As with women's nidda, the variability of the
months in the Hebrew calendar (there are 5 months of 29 days,
5 of 30 days, and 2 - Kislev and Mareshvan - which are sometimes
30 or 29 days, or sometimes one is 30 and the other 29) require
constant attention to phases of renewal.
Not just a theory
This is not just a general theory: the verse
says "ha hodesh haze, this renewal."
We see in regard to David in Chapter 20 of I
--- this is not an important manifestation that takes place
in the sky or in the home, and which one hardly pays attention
to, like a television set that always on but rarely watched,
--- this is a renewal, the small light of the moon that reappears
in a tiny crescent.
This must be done with dignity and sensitivity,
blessing the moon, and relating all this to the creator and
to his love for us as is written in the Song of Songs.
It is this intimacy which is present when Hashem says Ani Hashem,
I Hashem (at the beginning of Va-ayra, Shemot 6, 2) and takes
his people out of Egypt.
Why each month?
It is important that this phenomenon of nature
take place every month because man is so superficial, so prone
to a fast, routine way of life, that he needs this constant
reminder in order to feel the delicate light that unites him
with his fellow men and which is called: attention, sensitivity,
love. The Torah teaches and praises these qualities: "Hear
Why then is the Song of Songs placed at the center
of the Tanakh? And why does the Torah begin with the creation
of a pair of entities (the heavens and the earth).
The differences between the sexes: men's limitations
The Shla stresses that women know better than
men how to pay attention to the renewal of the moon and of the
month. Remember that it is at the very moment when the sun,
the symbol of masculinity, becomes obscure that the light of
the moon is renewed, and this teaches us something important.
Man must learn to let go what seems natural and
normal to him (his traditional social role, way of speech, political
drive, competitive spirit which is often a form of infantile
rivalry) in order to make room for women to appear.
Man must learn to be sensitive and understand the role of women.
The differences between the sexes: women's richness
The Creator teaches us another important point
in this creative process: it takes place when the woman is at
a higher level than man, that is when the moon-woman is close
to the sun-man but is higher than him. This is the meaning of
the verse: "A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband,
eshet hayil, ateret baala" (Proverbs 12, 4). This is the
complete reverse of the usual Western attitude which regards
women as objects to be admired, used, and humiliated. It is
also very far from the matriarchal approach which stresses women's
"power." This is a society which is regulated by women's
rhythms and based on sensitive reciprocity.
The differences between the sexes: adjustment
In contrast to social tendencies which tend to
dismiss and humiliate women, Judaism reminds us that the initial
unity which existed in Adam harishon had to be corrected in
order to be fertile (from a position of back to back, to one
of face to face), but the position of fecundity in love should
not be confused with the social subordination of women. This
teaches us that the true basis of love is equality, as in the
equal horizontal relationship of the cherubs in the Holy of
Holies and as in the simultaneous elevation of the sefirot.
(Refer to more advanced texts.)
Any other interpretation which tries to justify
the subordination of women is based on complete ignorance of
The meaning of (temporary) privation
" The above does not represent an idyllic
state. It involves mutual devotion and commitment on the part
of husbands and wives. Keeping nidda well is not easy and requires
constant control and discipline on both sides.
" The periods of separation symbolized in
nidda are also found in periods of separation, illness, widowhood
or other forms of parting.
" What has been said above applies to all
these situations of separation.
Only they can make us understand the phases of
desire, silence, night, which represent the shekhina in exile.
As David says in Psalm 119, 71:
tov li uneti, lemaan elmad hukekha
"It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might
learn thy statutes."
" These situations have an important educational
role. Light can sometimes be dark when it obscures, as when
the light of the sun obscures, during the day, the splendor
of the stars and the heavens.
" Sometimes the darkness is a place of great enlightenment
; those who are used to the darkness can see through it, like
the bene Yisrael during the plague of darkness in Egypt, when
they saw great riches. Darkness allows us to slowly discover
trust, devotion, tenderness, love, attention; it makes us understand
the suffering of others, that of the Creator when his people
were in exile, the humiliation and the suffering of Israel.
" Darkness lets us hear the quivering which precedes the
dawn, and teaches us language that is invisible. This is found
in human experience, human relations, and in history.
" We can now possible to understand many passages of the
Torah that could not be understood before: many verses describe
suffering, abandonment, depression, tears, darkness, cries for
help, and yet end in trust, praise, and submission to the will
of the Creator, in yira "awe," a concept hardly known
today and which involves true humility and modesty, respect
and understanding of the essence of pairig: "and there
was night (darkness) and there was morning (light), the first
" Just as psychologists discover that a problem child is
a rich and complex being, so these temporary situations of privation
reveal to us what is really at stake: "my vine is before
me." But the aim of the Song is true union and the Psalms
end with an immense hallelujah and the most beautiful verse
of praise (Psalm 150, 6).
" Darkness and light are as inseparable as two lovers,
as Hakadosh Barukh Hu and Israel or his creation. He who comes
through the darkness has left behind insolence, selfishness,
vulgarity and, through privation, is able to appreciate the
true value of feelings and inner depth.
" Orphans, sick people, those who are widowed and those
who convert (the gerim) understand this process. The Psalms
describe Hashem's concern and presence at these times. It is
important to read Psalm 146.
" The process of privation is expressed in the oft-repeated
concept of the "infertile woman" akara. Re-read chapter
54 of Isaiah and the beginning of the First Book of Samuel.
Elkanah says to Hannah, his wife who was infertile: "am
I not better than 10 sons?" (1, 8).
And it she who will give birth to the greatest of prophets,
In the plan of re-recreation, which constitutes
the book of Shemot, and its outcome at Pesah, it is this conjugal
relationship which is defined as the condition for the success
of all humanity, just as at the beginning of creation. But this
time the outcome is successful for Hashem tells how to achive
The importance of feminity in the world.
" Regretfully, the degradation of women
is still the norm in the world: women are rarely respected by
their husbands and they have still not attained their rightful
place in society. Domestic violence is rife.
" Man continues to wield his power in society in the same
way as he wields it in his home: discriminating, abusing, engaging
in wars, in political exploitation, criminal violence, domestic
violence, vulgarity, and sexual exploitation of women and children.
" The lack of solidarity between classes and between nationalities,
which characterize social, national and international relations,
the shameless use of religion as an instrument of domination,
the championing of individualism and financial "success"
instead of moral behavior, all stem from distorted man-woman
relationships and handicap the process of development of all
humanity (which is called "creation" in Judaism).
This is what we learn from the first phase of the liberation
from Egypt which is expressed in the renewal of the month.
" Similarly, Israel, which represents femininity, is still
fragile and humiliated.
And our people?
" The Jewish people, in its land and in
the world, are a laboratory where these phenomena are most vivid.
We should not be surprised to witness brutal and horrific events
here, for we are at the heart of the cyclone.
" These terrible events are also due to the fact that Israel
and its people are not complete: Israel is not in its holy land-
- nor in numbers, not in quality - and because of this, the
temple and the Sanhedrin cannot function as the sources of regulation,
training, prayer, union, study and guidance. This is what is
called the state of external and internal exile, the galut,
and this is why Israel can be seen as unable to transmit its
light, just like an overcast moon.
" Israel's difficult situation is also influenced by the
fact that it sometimes passes through period of great diffusion
of its light - like the moon --- and sometimes through periods
of retraction and diminution of its light, and again through
periods of luminescence. This instability increases criticism
" Devastated by so many centuries of persecution, Israel
cannot regain in one go its beauty and glory.
" But those who appreciate the qualities shown by women,
today as in the liberation from Egypt, join in praise of the
people, its women and the Torah, as is done every Friday night
with the recitation of Eshet Hayil.
As the prophet Jeremiah says, it is the idiot
who does not see the Creator and his presence in history and
in his own life, and unable to see Him, he accuses Him of the
ills and tragedies of life. While the Creator says: "come!"
Exercises in integration
1. Read this commentary and the references in
it and discuss it with your partner.
2. Try to see together how you can reflect each other. How do
both of you understand this? What are your aspirations? How
can you progress in this direction?
3. Every month, with the renewal of the moon, Jews can renew
themselves; examine and eliminate the imperfections which inevitably
still exist in your relationship with your partner, man or woman;
develop a relationship that conforms to the divine plan and
to the Creators'specific injunctions in the Torah. Learn how
to say hayom, today, and discover the beauty of the moon-woman
and bless, and praise her as is commanded ( see the commentary
on Rosh Hodesh in the list of festivals).
Observe the moon at the beginning of the month. Open the image
of the moon on the site.
4. Put into practice this knowledge every Shabbat.
5. Every Pesah, see how you can relive individually, as a family
and a collective, this historical process in which Hashem delivers
6. Reflect on how to educate your children on these points.
Important Note: look up in the dictionary:
--- mitzva, mitzvot, taryag.
--- molad, cycle, nidda (learn the meaning of the different
For an understanding of nidda, consult orthodox
women in your community or your rabbi.
Refer to the references.
Read the commentary on Rosh Hodesh.
moon, yareah or levana
widower, alman ; widow, almana
an infertile woman, akara