Parashat Bo

By Mira Sinick

Parashat Bo (Exodus 10.1 thru Exodus 13: 16-18) includes the remaining 3 plagues, Pharaoh’s attempted negotiations with Moses and the instructions for observing the Passover festival.

In fact, of our 613 mitzvoth, 20 commandments are written in today’s portion, mostly all dealing with the laws of Passover.

Many of you know that I am a Karaite Jew. Karaite means Readers. The Karaites adhere more strictly to the Torah since they believe in the Tanach alone as a supreme authority of Jewish Law.

Today I would like to share with you how these differences played out in my growing up and how they still effect my observation of the Passover holiday.

Although Passover is a favored holiday amongst many Jews and myself, it wasn’t always so for me. A source of confliction, observing Passover not only separated me from my non-Jewish friends, but from my Jewish friends as well. Not only was I not allowed to eat a chocolate Easter egg during this time, but many items that were labeled kosher for Passover, that my Jewish friends ate, were forbidden to me. Chametz is defined as leavening. Any product such as wine or cheese, that is fermented, was considered chametz amongst Karaite Jews.

Unleavened bread will be eaten for 7 days and leavened bread shall not be seen for you and leaven shall not be seen for you within all your borders. (Exodus 13:6-7)

Then there is the question of the length of THE HOLIDAY. The Torah clearly states that the observance of Pesach will begin on the 14th day of Aviv in the evening through the 21st day of the month in the evening. (Exodus 12:18) Many Conservative Jews celebrate Passover for 8 days. I’ll never forget the shame on my father’s face one year while were doing our bread shopping at the close of the 7th day. We ran into the Isaacsons at Shop Rite. Upon seeing them, my father looked at the contents of our shopping cart. Not knowing that we were Karaites with some different practices, he wondered, what would they think of us shopping for bread, during Passover?

God instructs Moses to allow each family to take an unblemished lamb on the 10th day of the month of Aviv, keep it until the 14th day, slaughter, roast and eat the lamb.  Until today, our family traditionally roasts lamb on the evening of Passover, making sure to adhere to the second commandment to remove the sinew of the thigh before roasting. Although today we do not put the lamb’s blood on our doorposts, my Uncle Amin clearly remembers his father practicing this ritual.

We are commanded to engage in the rituals of Passover for the purpose of arousing curiosity in our children. These practices help us remember that we were slaves in Egypt and that we were freed for the purpose of serving our God.

How do we serve God? Many of us, come to the synagogue, pray and study. But others choose to engage in many of the mitzvoth that are God-given. Freedom from slavery should be seen as an opportunity to serve God, our neighbors and those less fortunate than ourselves.

Shabbat Shalom