Parsha_Push for Bo - Matan - The Sadie Rennert
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Parsha_Push for Bo

Rabbanit Dr. Adina Sternberg

In their formal negotiation, Moshe and Aharon in the name of God present two demands from Pharaoh. The first demand is: “Let My people go that they may celebrate a festival for Me in the wilderness”. A bit later this demand is refined: “Let us go, we pray, a distance of three days into the wilderness to sacrifice to our God”. The second demand, which can be understood as a repetition of the first one, or as an expansion of it is: ““Let My people go that they may worship Me”.
We notice that Moshe never says they are planning to return. He does not request a leave for three days, but rather that the sacrifice be at a distance of a three day walk. The request: “that they may worship Me” implies that the People of Israel will be substituting worshiping Pharaoh with worshiping God. The redemption from Egypt, like redemption of land, entails freeing – a people or a land – from the stronghold of one owner to the possession of another owner from one’s family. The goal of becoming worshipers of God is the reason they could never promise to return.
And yet the first official demand does not refer to transferring loyalty of slavery or servitude, but rather to the festive celebration. The Torah uses the same word both for holiday celebrations and for other festivities which include eating and dancing. Does this mean one is supposed to have festive celebrations on the holidays? Our Sages raised that possibility but concluded that the direct meaning of the command is to sacrifice to God, as is implied from the parallel requests.
However, the Torah uses the word that implies festivities. We are led to believe this is the foremost purpose of leaving Egypt, to celebrate with God. So much so, that Beit Hillel said there is a certain preference to the Hagiga sacrifice, the sacrifice of the celebration, over other sacrifices brought on the holidays. According to them, this celebration preceded the giving of the Torah and therefore its importance is magnified.
We can see that receiving the Torah, via which we shall worship God, comes only after festive celebrations with God. Despite substituting one “commander” with another, God wants us to have the correct frame of reference, one where receiving the Torah is a festival, with two sides rejoicing in the event and coming together in holy covenant.
The Torah has many challenging and constricting aspects, but before encountering them, and as part of encountering them, we also celebrate the giving of the Torah. Just like an individual’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah, the people of Israel will begin their new life, with fresh meaning and purpose with a festive celebration.

Rabbanit Dr. Adina Sternberg

Rabbanit Dr. Adina Sternberg

was in the first cohort of the Matan Kitvuni Fellowship program and her book is in the publication process. She has a B.A. in Bible from Hebrew University and a M.A. and Ph.D. in Talmud from Bar Ilan University. Adina studied in Midreshet Lindenbaum, Migdal Oz, Havruta and the Advanced Talmud Institute in Matan. She currently teaches Bible and Talmud at Matan, and at Efrata and Orot colleges. Adina lives in Adam (Geva Binyamin) with her family.