In preparation for the impending Exodus from Egypt, God gives the Jewish people their first Mitzvah, their first national precept: The Passover Offering. Why a lamb?
This week’s Torah portion is “Bo” (Exodus 10:1-13:6), which means “to come”, referring to God’s instruction to Moses and Aaron that they again go and visit Pharaoh. And indeed they did. This time it was with the warning for plague number seven: locusts. Although Pharaoh’s advisers were starting to crack and were advising Pharaoh to let the Jews go, he would hear none of that. The locusts led to the plague of darkness and darkness led to the ultimate plague: The death of all firstborn in Egypt.
In preparation for the impending Exodus from Egypt, God gives the Jewish people their first Mitzva, their first national precept: The Passover Offering, the Paschal Lamb. From that first Passover Seder right here in the week’s Torah portion on the night before the Jews left Egypt right through until the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the Passover lamb was a special offering that was brought to the Temple and eaten as part of the Passover Seder. Today, however, due to the absence of a Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the annual Passover Seder continues but without this sacred component.
Our sages teach why God wanted the Jewish people to specifically use a lamb as part of their Passover offering and Seder on the night before they left Egypt. In Egypt, the lamb was considered to be sacred, a god of sorts. The Egyptians worshiped the lamb and ascribed to it all types of divine and supernatural powers. Can you imagine the thoughts and reactions of the Egyptians when they saw the Jewish people (one per family!) walking through the streets with a lamb, their god, on a leash? Can you imagine their reaction when lambs, their god, were being slaughtered in every single Jewish home in preparation for the Seder? Can you imagine the outrage when the blood of these lambs, their god, was placed on the doorposts of the Jewish homes so that the Angel of Death would “Pass Over” their homes and only strike the Egyptian homes?
Yes. The Egyptians were outraged. Incensed. Violent. Vengeful. But they could do nothing. God protected the Jews from their attempted pogroms. This is why God specially chose the lamb to be the Passover sacrifice: So that He could see if the Jews would adhere to the word of God. To test the Jews to see if their trust in Him was greater than their fear of the Egyptians. The Passover sacrifice – a lesson in faith and trust in God.
Lessons of ‘Bo’ as Relevant Today as Ever
The lessons of the portion of “Bo” are as relevant today as they were 3,000 years ago. The Jewish people are always facing an enemy looking for pretexts to kill them. But the lesson is clear: Trust in God. In even our most mundane activities and routines we must trust in God. When in doubt remember what the $1 bill says: “In God we trust”. Scripture teaches us that those who trust in God will be saved from all troubles.
Even today, the Jewish people have troubles and forces of evil with which to contend. Whether it is fighting for the legitimacy of Israel or preparing to confront the maniacal Ahmadinijad who promises to exterminate the Jewish state, we must be ready and we must be prepared. We must be ready militarily. But we must also be ready with our faith and trust in God. “Oh Israel – trust in God. Your Help and Protection is from Him. (Psalms 115:9).
Shabbat Shalom from Israel!
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
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