Beneath the Pale Moon Light – Parshat Bo 5772

There is a classic scene in the movie An American Tale where the small mouse, Fievel, is lost from his family.  He’s all alone at night, staring up into the bright moonlight and singing “Somewhere out there, beneath the pale moon light, someone’s thinking of me, and loving me tonight.”  The moon not only lights the little mouse’s way was he tries to find his family, but it offers a comfortable connection even when someone is far away. 
As Jews, we also have a special connection to the moon.  Our months and years are tied to the lunar cycle.  This week we read parshat Bo, during which the Israelites finally make their way out of the oppression in Egypt and can almost taste freedom for the first time.  In a way, this anticipation is like those months leading up to the birth of a child.  Parents ponder their hopes and dreams for their new baby.  They’re already making wishes, listing wants and setting goals.  Similarly, you can imagine God at this moment when His people, the Children of Israel, are nearing their birth into a new era, with new needs, desires and freedom.  As the “parent,” God’s dreams include a calendar comprised of guidelines and instructions for daily living that were sure to enable the Israelites to live their lives through structure. 
Chapter 12 begins to construct the Israelite calendar, which begins with Pesach and continues to build to throughout the Torah narrative.  The text reads, “This month shall mark for you the beginning of the months, it shall be the first of the months of the year for you.”  Knowing from the narrative of creation that our days begin with the evening, our months also follow the pattern of the moon.  This is fitting as the moon waxes and wanes through the months just as the Israelites surely will change as they experience freedom.  The S’fat Emet, a 19th century Torah commentary by Yehudah Aryeh Leib of Ger, suggests that the reason that our months are counted by the moon is because it waxes and wanes; it disappears and grows bright again.  The Jewish people as a whole, throughout history, go through cycles of suffering and prosperity. 
The light of the moon is helpful; when it is full we can sometimes see even without a flashlight.  But, when the moon is a tiny sliver at the beginning or end of a month, it can be very difficult to see anything at all at night.  Each of us as individuals may also find ourselves in this cycle of dark and light, but it’s the cycle that reminds us that even in darkness there are brighter days ahead.    
ללמוד  To Learnללמד  To Teach: Our parshah this week speaks of the commandment to tell the story of our people to the next generation.  The Torah teaches us that our collective memory is what sustains us as a people as one generation teaches the text.  There’s no time like now to learn and share your family’s story.  Check out www.ancestry.com for a start, or register and attend Dallas LearningFest 2012 and learn how to do the research through Meyer Denn’s Class. www.learningfest.org  
לשמור  To Keep:  לעשות  To Do: So often we see the pages of the calendar turn so quickly that we feel like time is racing by.  Living according to a lunar calendar allows us the awareness to check the sky every night and be keenly aware of the passing time.  Take a moment once each week with your family to track the moon’s changes.  Use this time to reflect on your week and make goals for the coming week. 

Tell Me More, Tell Me More – Parshat Bo 5771

One of the aspects of my job I love the most is telling and hearing stories.  Every morning and afternoon I am regaled with wonderful stories from our students about their day, what they did last night, where they are going this weekend, what their brother or sister said to them.  I hear stories all the time.  And, of course, come Thursday afternoon, the chit chat at BLS carpool is about which story I’ll tell this week.  I love trying to find the perfect story that matches the values and lessons I want to convey on a particular week. 
Our parshah this week, parshat Bo, brings us into the narrative of Moses and the Israelites as they prepare to leave Egypt.  We are told of the final three plagues, including the slaying of the first born Egyptian sons.  And, interestingly, we are given instructions on how to remember this story.  We learn of the laws of Passover and how to celebrate for years to come; we learn that we are to wear Tefillin on both our arm and our head to remember the exodus from Egypt; and we are commanded not only to remember this, but to retell the story of the Exodus, the story of Passover, to our children. 
The text teaches in chapter 13, verse 8:  “V’higadetah L’vincha:” and you shall tell your child.  We hear these words over and over again in the Passover haggadah, and of course we tell the story then, but what about the rest of the year?  The text teaches that we have an obligation to tell our children the story, to instill within them the joy of freedom, the gift of community, the blessing of life, and the belief in God.  The story we tell here is the story of memory and a narrative of questions. 
The brilliance of our text and heritage shines when reading about how God and Moses anticipate the nation’s reactions in future generations.  Verse 14 understands and expects the quest to know more and the need to ask.  The text states:  “And when your child says to you, what does this mean?…”  The question is not if, but when.  It is a given that questions will be asked.  Our Torahencourages us to ask questions and discuss the answers.  More than this, the Torah begs us to share our stories, our history and heritage with our children.  Parshat Bo, reminds us that if we don’t know from where we’ve come, we cannot know where we will go. 
We are all familiar with stories, whether they’re from Dr. Seuss or Shel Silverstein, the Bible, or, most importantly, our own lives and the history of our family.  In fact, much of what we learn and absorb comes from what is told to us through the narrative of a movie, song, play, book, or television show.  It is this culture of storytelling that gives us the opportunity to learn and grow with each retelling, and by sharing it, we encourage deeper understanding and internalization of the rich heritage that is our gift.
Family Discussion Questions:
  1. TELL YOUR STORY.  Spend some time this Shabbat sharing your family’s narrative history with your children.  
  2. Our ‘ethical covenant’ speaks about citizenship.  What lessons can you learn from your family’s story?  What can you teach from it to create a more fair and just society?