The drama of Parashat Bo is mostly terrifying. The mounting confrontation between the Israelites – represented by Moses and Aaron (but really God) – and the Egyptians – represented by an unnamed Pharaoh – reaches its crescendo with the last three of the ten plagues. We should strive to remember all of the innocent victims on both sides of every conflict.
In Parashat Bo, the plagues continue with increasing intensity. As the Egyptians and the Israelites learn to recognize God’s power, is it possible that God, too, is learning to make each successive plague more effective?
The research abounds: birth order has an impact on development. The Internet teems with articles on expected personality traits for firstborn and later-born children and, in a rare moment of consensus, experts agree that birth order matters.1 It influences a child’s need for attention, interest in interacting with adults versus peers, reactions to challenge and pressure, and relationship with parents. As the mother of two young sons (and a firstborn myself), I see evidence of this research daily and often wonder how birth order will affect my children’s lives.
Birth order matters in Parashat Bo, too. Bo begins with the final four plagues, culminating in that infamous, horrifying last plague: makat b’chorot, the killing of the firstborn. God takes this concept to its extreme, condemning every single firstborn — whether human or animal — to perish. The Israelite firstborns were saved by placing lambs’ blood on their doors.
After God sends seven plagues upon the Egyptians, Pharaoh still will not free the Jewish slaves. God sends two more plagues, but Pharaoh still will not let the people go. God warns Moses about the killing of the first born and the Israelites put blood on their doorposts so that the angel of death will pass over them (That's where the word “Passover” comes from!). Listen now to find out what happens when Pharaoh’s son is killed.