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Deed Not Creed

By: Rav Aharon E. Wexler

Our parsha introduces us to the theme of ‘sacred time’. Parshat Bo sets for us the beginning of the Hebrew calendar by starting it with Nissan, the month we left Egypt, as opposed to Tishrei, the month HaShem created the world. This parsha also reimagines the spring festival, an ancient agricultural holiday emphasizing the Earth's fertile renewal as Pesach, the holiday observing the Exodus from Egypt.

This is because, unlike the gods of the other nations, the God of Israel is One that acts through time and history. When God first introduces Himself at Sinai, He does so as the God who took us out of Egypt and not the God who created heaven and earth. As if to say “You know me, we have a relationship together!” Therefore our calendar starts with Nissan when HaShem took us out of Egypt and not with Rosh HaShana which would be more universal.

The Pagan calendar  was purely seasonal. Their sense of time was cyclical alone. Israel in contrast to her neighbours, had a calendar that  was not based only the agricultural seasons, but on historic occurrences in the life of the people. The spring holiday marks the Exodus from Egypt, the summer holiday marks the revelation at Sinai, and the harvest holiday the booths the Israelites lived in during their desert sojourn.

Even the Sabbath is not some disconnected holy day, but marks the historic occasion of God resting on the seventh day.


The Hebrew word used for the holidays is mo’ed, from the word ye’ud, which means destiny. The word mo’ed has another meaning, to meet. On the mo’adim we refresh our relationship with the Creator when we meet both God and our destiny and by observing the mo’adim future generations become part of the chain of Jewish destiny. 

Judaism, as set forth in the Bible is not philosophical in nature. The Torah does not represent some universal platonic ideal. The basis of the Israelite religion is historical. We know of God because He has intervened in history and showed Himself. It is through His acts in history that we have a relationship with Him. This is why we are a religion of deed and not creed. God acted with us, so we act with Him!

In sharp contrast to the other Mesopotamian religions and myths of the time, where God is depicted in the heavens as eating, drinking and fornicating; we know nothing about the God of Israel save for his interactions with man. In stark contrast to the other religions of the time, the Torah offers us no theogony.  In fact the Bible is deafeningly silent about what occupies God up in heaven unless there is something to do with mankind.

Finally, in the post-biblical era, the Talmud asks, “Just what does God do all day now that he has created heaven and earth?” The answer the Talmud gives is that he makes shidduchim (matchmaking) between people. Again this answer only reinforces the biblical idea of a God who is supremely interested in man.

Shabbat Shalom!






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