Thursday, January 18, 2018

Why Take The Pesach Lamb 4 Days Before Offering It?

In parshas Bo we read about the Korban Pesach, the Paschal sacrifice, which was a yearling male lamb or goat. The Korban Pesach in Egypt differed from all later ones, in that it had to be brought into the home 4 days prior, in anticipation of slaughtering it. As Moshe instructed with regards to the Korban Pesach, "Withdraw and take for yourselves sheep for your families and slaughter the Pesach."

Rashi asks: Why was it to be taken four days before its slaughter, something not required in the Passover sacrifice of later generations?

He answers: Rabbi Masia the son of Charash used to say: Behold He [G-d] says: “And I passed by you and saw you, and behold your time was the time of love.” The [time for the fulfillment of the] oath that I swore to Abraham that I would redeem his children has arrived. But they had no mitzvahs in their hands with which to occupy themselves in order that they be redeemed, as it is said: “but you were naked and bare.” So He gave them two mitzvahs, the blood of the Passover and the blood of the circumcision...  Moreover, they were passionately fond of idolatry. [Moshe] said to them, “Withdraw and take for yourselves.” [He meant:] withdraw from idolatry and take for yourselves sheep for the mitzvah.

Rashi's answer explains why we needed the mitzvah of Korban Pesach, however, it doesn't seem to explain why we had to have it 4 days prior to slaughtering it. But being that this is the question Rashi is answering, we must conclude that somehow this does answer the question. So, how does it answer it?

Another question. The second answer that Rashi gives, "They were passionately fond of idolatry..." is not from Rabbi Masia, it is from Rabbi Eliezer Hakapar, who differs with him on this, but Rashi doesn't make mention of his name, he doesn't even use his common lead up, "And there are those that say..." Why not?

In truth, Rashi's purpose in writing his commentary is to explain the simple meaning of the verse, and not to cite where he took his explanation from. It is actually uncommon for him to cite the name of the person who said a given answer. The only time he does so, is when mentioning the name of the person will add clarity to his explanation. So the real question is not why he didn't mention Rabbi Eliezer Hakapar, rather, why does he mention Rabbi Masia the son of Charash?

From the second answer of Rashi, "They were passionately fond of idolatry," we can understand that somehow, the taking of the sheep was necessary to "withdraw from idolatry." However, since the main reason for the Korban Pesach, is as its name suggests, Pesach means to pass over. Because they were to put the blood of the sacrifice on the doorposts and on the lintels of their homes and Hashem would pass over their houses, when He was administering the plague of the death of the first born. Therefore, Rashi first brings the words of Rabbi Masia, to explain that there was another reason for the Korban Pesach, to give the Jewish people a mitzvah to do, so they won't be "naked and bare.”

Rabbi Masia says that they were given two mitzvahs, the Korban Pesach and circumcision. Why did they need two mitzvahs? Why wasn't one enough?

When it comes to mitzvahs, there are two kinds, there are those that are "refraining from bad," and then there is "doing good." Both of these ideals had to be engaged, because even if they did good, as long as they didn't break away from the bad that they were involved in, they wouldn't be able to be redeemed.

The mitzvah of circumcision represented "doing good," as it is a general mitzvah that solidifies the covenant between us and Hashem. And the mitzvah of Korban Pesach represents "refraining from bad," breaking away from the negative things they were into. How does the Korban Pesach represent a break away from bad?

In parshas Vaera we learned that sheep were the false deity of Egypt. And being that the Jewish people were "passionately fond of idolatry," they needed to break away from that. So they were told to take a sheep, the deity of Egypt, and slaughter it. But if they were to take the sheep and slaughter it immediately, one might think that they did it in a moment of passion and that they aren't truly free from idolatry. So they were told to take the sheep 4 days before they were to slaughter it, giving them enough time to think about what they were doing and do it with true reason and intent and not out of passion.

How do we know that it takes 4 days? When Hashem commanded Avraham to bring Yitzchak as an offering, it took three days for Hashem to show him the place. Rashi explains that He did this so that no one should be able to say that Avraham did it in a moment of passion, but he would have time to think about what he is doing and do it out of reason.

From here it is clear that it takes 4 days. Because Avraham set out on the morning after he was commanded to take Yitzchak and offer him up. That day plus the three days until he was shown the place, makes 4 days for him to think about it.

In order for us to understand that Hashem's promise to Avraham was not enough to redeem the Jewish people, but He wanted them also to have mitzvahs, Rashi mentions that this is what "Rabbi Masia the son of Charash used to say." The Talmud tells us that Rabbi Masia's yeshiva was in Rome. While there were other yeshivas in Israel, his was the biggest.

It begs the question., why did he choose to establish his yeshiva in Rome, far away, so that students would have to travel a long distance to join, and from all places, in Rome, the capital of the exile no less? As the Talmud says, "Follow after sages to yeshiva... After Rabbi Masia to Rome." Why didn't he make it in Israel?

Whenever it says, that a sage, "used to say," it means that it was what he lived by. In Rabbi Masia's case, it is that every Jewish person has to have mitzvahs in order to be redeemed. So he established his yeshiva in Rome, so that he can touch even people who are at the level of Rome, "naked and bare" of Torah and mitzvahs, and turn them into yeshiva students.

The lesson to us here, is that one might ask, "What is the point of this prolonged exile? Hasn't it gone on long enough?"

If all that was necessary for the exile to end, was for Hashem to take us out, it would have happened long ago. But Hashem wants more from us, He wants us to have mitzvahs, that we shouldn't be "naked and bare.” And being that when Moshiach comes, '"All of Israel" will be redeemed, we should try our best to reach every Jew, and have him or her do even one mitzvah.

May we be successful in reaching every Jew, doing mitzvahs with them, and may we march together with our heads up high, knowing that we are not "naked and bare," that every one of us has mitzvahs. May it happen soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment