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Bo 5775

Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!   I was once conversing with a group of doctors when one of them asked me, "So, are you a doctor, too?" Wanting to respond with a witty, profound reply, I answered, "Yes, I am a doctor of the soul." The physician looked puzzled for a moment and then responded, "Oh, so you're a podiatrist?"

My goal is to help people be all that they can be in life -- to fulfill their potential, especially their spiritual potential. Therefore, I was thrilled to receive a copy of A Wholly Life -- Spiritual Integration of Mind, Body and Soul compiled by Dr. Moshe Kaplan (available at your local Jewish bookstore, at or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242). It is a fascinating and though-provoking collection of essays which explore the many facets of Jewish spirituality: Intellectual Integration (Dr. Dovid Gottlieb), Emotional Integration (Mimi Dickman), Physical Integration (Yaakov Levinson), Science and Spirituality (Moshe Perkal), Creation and Spirituality (Meir Triebitz) and Ethical Living (Berel Wein).

From a Torah point of view, one must look for spirituality -- connection with the Almighty -- in everything. There are, I believe, three philosophical approaches regarding spirituality and eating. 1) Ascetic -- eating is a base, physical action and if one wants spirituality, he must fast and deny the body. 2) Epicurean -- forget about spirituality! Physical, sensual pleasures are as good as it gets. Indulge! 3) Torah -- one eats to gain strength to do the Almighty's will and to take care of one's body; thus, the very act of eating has a spiritual context.

I would like to share with you an excerpt from Yaakov Levinson's essay "Nutrition: An Elevated Meal" which, I believe, will give you a taste (excuse the pun) for this insightful book:

"The Torah says, 'And you shall eat and be satisfied and bless God' " (Deuteronomy 8:10). The sages of the Talmud explain that if one's desire in eating is only to be satisfied and not to indulge in gluttony, then one is considered to be 'blessing God.' When we elevate our food further with the blessings and commandments associated with eating, our eating becomes a spiritual act like the performance of any other commandment. Thus, even the food we eat can become a substance that raises us spiritually. In fact, all of our acts can bring us closer to God depending on how we perform them.

"The Baal Shem Tov said, 'By the manner in which you eat you serve God.' If not performed with holiness, the act of eating is simply an instinctive act necessary to preserve life in our bodies or a means of satisfying our greed. But performed in holiness, the act of eating becomes very spiritual. The Proverbs say that 'A righteous person eats to satisfy his soul.'

"Maimonides, a twelfth-century physician, stated that the majority of human ills come from unhealthy eating practices. This has been substantiated by modern science. Humbling is the thought that if humans did eat like animals only for their bodily needs and not to indulge themselves, they would live longer and healthier!"

Here are a few practical ideas for spiritually elevating eating: 1) Make blessings before and after eating. Before eating one is asking permission from the Almighty to partake of His world. After eating, the blessing thanks the Almighty for what he has given us. These are important lessons for both us and our children -- to ask permission before using something and to give thanks afterwards. 2) Focus on the enjoyment of the taste of the food while you eat it. The Almighty has given us a beautiful world for our pleasure. 3) Discuss worthwhile topics and ideas, especially Torah, during the meal. It has been said that elevated people speak about ideas, mediocre people speak about things and lower level individuals speak about people. 4) Eat Kosher -- there's nothing like Jewish soul food! If the Almighty tells us how food must be prepared, what not to eat or what combinations not to eat, then it is for our physical and spiritual good. The Kabbalah teaches that non-kosher food places a block for spiritual growth.

Every person does the best he can in life. Perhaps the book, A Wholly Life -- Spiritual Integration of Mind, Body and Soul can give some ideas to help us grow and improve. The more knowledge a person has, the better decisions he or she makes.


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Torah Portion of the week

Bo, Exodus 10:1 -13:16

This week we conclude the ten plagues with the plagues of locusts, darkness and the death of the first-born. The laws of Passover are presented, followed by the commandment to wear tefillin, consecrate the first-born animal and redeem one's first born son. The Torah tells us that at some time in the future your son will ask you about these commandments and you will answer: "With a show of power, God brought us out of Egypt, the place of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us leave, God killed all the first-born in Egypt, man and beast alike. I, therefore, offer to God all male first-born (animals) and redeem all the first-born of sons. And it shall be a sign upon your arm, and an ornament between your eyes (Tefillin), for with a strong hand the Almighty removed us from Egypt." (Ex. 13:15)

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

In this week's portion the Almighty gives the first commandment to the Jewish people as a whole -- to decree the beginning of the Jewish month. This is important for setting the date of each Jewish holiday. It is so important that when the Greeks were persecuting us at the time of the Hanukah story, they forbade the Jewish court to decree the beginning of the new month. The Torah states:

"This month shall be for you the first of the months (referring to the month of Nissan when Pesach occurs. The new year of the reign of king starts with the month of Nissan. The new year for the creation of mankind starts with the month of Tishrei)" (Exodus 12:2).

What lesson for life can we learn from this verse?

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein commented that the month of Tishrei is the month of the creation of the world. The month of Nissan is the month of the exodus from Egypt. Both months are lessons in our awareness of the Almighty's power.

The first lesson is that the Almighty is the Creator of the universe. The second lesson is that of hashgacha pratis, Divine Providence. The Almighty controls the events of the world and therefore He is the One Who enslaved the Children of Israel and He is the One Who freed them. The Torah is telling us in this verse that the lesson of the Almighty's guiding historical events is even more important than the lesson of the creation of the world.

One can believe that the Almighty created the world and this might not make any difference in a person's behavior and attitudes. However, once a person is aware of the supervision of the Almighty in daily events, he will improve his behavior. Moreover, his trust in the Almighty will free him from worry. The month of Nissan is the first month of the year and by remembering this we remember all that is symbolized by the Exodus. This will have a major effect on what we do and think.


Candle Lighting Times

January 23
(or go to

Jerusalem 4:29
Guatemala 5:39 - Hong Kong 5:49 - Honolulu 5:58
J'Burg 6:44 - London 4:17 - Los Angeles 4:57
Melbourne 8:22 - Mexico City 6:06 - Miami 5:40
New York 4:44 - Singapore 7:00 - Toronto 4:59

Quote of the Week

It is not pleasure that makes life worth living.
It is life that makes pleasure worth having
--  George Bernard Shaw



With Deep Appreciation to

Dan Banay

Seattle, Washington


In Honor of the Bar Mitzvah of

Eli Milton Gelb

Pop Pop and Bubbie Gelb


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