Drash Cards for Bo (5775)
by Marc Mangel
- Susan was working on her reading, seeing how far she could get without having to look up a word. She got stuck at 12:22 – the word Ezov
- Here’s the verse: “You shall then take a bundle of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and apply some of the blood in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts.” So I decided to drash on Ezov
- Ezov? Here we have the last three plagues, the Exodus, the Passover offering, consecrating the first born; hyssop is surely going to be boring. But it is not. I’d like to tell you 4 things about hyssop
• First: Ezov is often translated as hyssop – an herbaceous plant native to southern Europe and the Mideast. It is known since antiquity but what exactly the hyssop of the Bible is has been a problem for scholars for many years, including Saadia Gaon and the Rambam. I found a 1954 article in the Evangelical Quarterly called “The Biblical Problem of Hyssop”
- All questions were put to rest by Alex and Zhenia Fleisher, from Technion, with a definitive study of hyssop, oregano, and za’atar published in Economic Botany in 1988. They conclude that Biblical hyssop is the plant Majorana syriaca, which is the only kind of za-atar species found in the vicinity of Gebel Musa (they did field trips in 1979 and 1984) — which Islam and Eastern Christianity consider to be Mt. Sinai. It was there that Moses found the plant for instructing the Israelites in VaYikra 14:6
- Second – why are the Israelites spreading the blood with hyssop? So that God will pass over their homes when striking down the first born. But surely God does not need a sign to indicate which house was Israelite and which was not . Here’s what could possibly be the most important event in Jewish history to date and it cannot happen without hyssop being used by the Israelites. What do we learn from this? That we are partners with God and that we need to take action if we want to excite the Divine Energy.
- Third: why use the hyssop spread the blood to the lintel and the two doorposts – why isn’t one doorpost or the lintel enough. Imagine the doorway after this is done. The Rebbe teaches that the lintel is the study of Torah, the left doorpost is prayer and the right doorpost is doing mitzvoth. It is these three taken together and in balance that lead to a complete life in which we fulfill our mission of making a dwelling place for God in this world.
- Fourth: The Rebbe also teaches that the right doorpost alludes to chesed, the left to gevurah, the lintel to tiferet, and the door itself to malchut. As we know, the world requires a balance of chesed and gevurah and the spreading of the blood with the hyssop reminds us that balance is necessary for everything – even the final plague.
- So it seems that we can actually learn a lot from Ezov.