- B’nei Israel were commanded to take a sheep for each household, then to slaughter and eat it. They fulfilled this mitzvah despite the danger of Egyptians avenging their idol’s honor.
- Hashem gave Bnei Israel special protection when they did this mitzvah; the Egyptians did not harm anyone.
- This mitzvah was given at the same time as the commandment to perform Brit Milah. These two mitzvot were what allowed B’nei Israel to merit redemption; ‘by their bloods they would live’.
- Brit Milah is a physical way with which we can identify as different than the other nations, reflecting our elevated souls. Our action in completing ourselves physically reminds us of our responsibility to perfect our souls spiritually.
Let’s think: if Milah identifies us as Hashem’s Nation, dedicated to fulfilling His will, what did that original Pesach Sacrifice symbolize?
Let’s look ahead a bit now. After B’nei Israel had left Egypt, crossed the Yam Suf and traveled in the desert for several weeks, they arrived at Har Sinai to receive the Torah. Take note of the first two of the Ten Commandments- mitzvot in which the entire rest of the Torah are contained:
- I am Hashem your God, Who took you out of Egypt…
- There shall be no other gods (idols) before Me…
(The great Maharal of Prague explained the connection between Milah and Pesach in a way that reminds us of our own learning until this point. According to the Maharal, Milah was a symbol of servitude- like the marking or sign a slave would be branded with by his master, as a means of identification. The Pesach sacrifice, he continues, was an act of servitude, an action that showed our subjugation to God. The sign by itself would be insufficient, because a slave does not necessarily act according to his status; he can rebel and never serve. The act would be similarly lacking, because service alone does not show that the person doing it is a slave; he may well be a free man who just so happens to have worked for someone.)
Based on all we are seeing here, we begin to view the acts of Milah and of Pesach as great acts of Mesirut Nefesh, self- sacrifice. Aside from the constant danger of Milah (see Gemara Gittin 57b with Rashi) and the unique danger of the Pesach in Egypt, the acts were themselves ones which turned us into Hashem’s servants; by fulfilling them, we were giving up of our selves, foregoing our own physical desires in coming closer to God, embracing the Torah although it meant we would now have to answer to a Higher Authority.
All mitzvot that our ancestors accepted with Mesirut Nefesh are still performed with Mesirut Nefesh… such as Milah and ( avoiding the sin of) idol worship…
-So we have come full circle: the ‘bloods’ of these two mitzvot were our own, in the sense that we gave our selves in fulfilling them with Mesirut Nefesh-
‘By your bloods, you shall live!‘
-Amazing. And it should come as no surprise, then, that when we return the Torah to the Aron, the Ark, after reading from it in the synagogue, we recite this verse with the Torah as a Tree of Life- and that just before that verse is read, we recite:
For it is a good acquisition; do not forsake my Torah!
– For the Gematria (numerical value) of “Lekach hatov” (‘the good acquisition’) is 160- the same value as“zeh haPesach“ – ‘this is the Pesach’!
Let us be inspired by the greatness of Hashem and His Torah, and dedicate ourselves to continue in the ways of those who came before us, serving Him with all of our soul.