Bo 3

D'var Torah by Rabbi Jay Spero


Showing Readiness

Parshas Bo

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The story line of this week’s portion is the last three of the ten plagues, and the exodus from Egypt. 

Before the last of the ten plagues, the plague of the first born, Hashem told Moshe to command the Jews a seemingly strange commandment: "Speak to the entire assembly of Israel saying: On the tenth of this month they shall take for themselves, each man a lamb for a family." (This commandment is commonly known as the "Korban Pesach", or the sacrifice of the paschal lamb; Shemos 12:3). They were then told to slaughter the lamb, eat it, and put the blood of the lamb on their doorposts, and this would be a protection for them (from the angel of death; summary of 12:4-13).

What is the meaning of this commandment? How could the slaughtering of a lamb, eating it, and placing the blood on the doorpost be a merit which would protect them from the angel of death during the plague of the first born. And why was this an important rite for the Jews to perform shortly before they were taken out of Egypt? 

In his work Shelah, Rabbi Isiah Horowitz writes an explanation. He writes that the purpose of the slaughtering of the lamb is first and foremost to demonstrate Hashem’s superiority over all powers, both in heaven and on earth. Hashem had endowed many agents with powers that could lead some to the erroneous believe that there was more than one Hashem. The Egyptians held the lamb to be the most powerful amongst the gods. The discrediting of the lamb, which was held dear by the most powerful and influential empire of its time, would shatter the belief that the gods were an independent source of power. While in Egypt, the Jews had unfortunately gotten involved with idol worship. In order for the Jews to be worthy of the exodus they had to show that they repudiated the belief in the power of the Egyptian god, and they understood that the source of all power lies only with Hashem.

The Jews were not taken out of Egypt to be like the other nations. "And I will take you to Me as a people (Hashem speaking to the Jews; Shemos 6:7). The Jews were taken out to receive the Torah, thereby becoming a special nation: to teach the world ethics and morality.

The slaughtering of the lamb would show the impotence of the Egyptian god, and even more, the impotence of the Egyptian lifestyle. 

This would be a sanctification of Hashem’s name, and would show the Jews were ready to be a light unto the nations.

Rabbi Jay Spero is the rabbi of the Saranac Synagogue in Buffalo.

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