By: Herschel Karp (10th Grade)
In this week’s Parsha, Bnei Yisrael are given their first mitzvah, the Korban Pesach. Hashem commands Moshe to tell the Jews to take for themselves a lamb which would be kept in their homes’ until the fourteenth, when it would be slaughtered. This marked an important step in the oncoming redemption from Egypt in many ways. Rabbi Matia ben Charash relates that when it came time for Hashem to redeem Bnei Yisrael, Hashem looked for any merits that would justify taking the Jews out of Egypt, but to no avail. Therefore, He gave them the mitzvah of Korban Pesach so that they would have the merit to be freed. However, as nice as the answer may sound, it still fails to explain why this mitzvah in particular was chosen out of all the six hundred and thirteen to be Bnei Yisrael’s redeeming mitzvah. Seemingly, the Brit Milah, a deed which our forefathers already took upon themselves, is the more logical choice. And if not that deed, why not keeping kosher or honoring your father and mother as the mitzvah?
To answer this question, it is necessary to take a closer look as to the different elements of this mitzvah. Up until the destruction of the second Beit Hamikdash, the Korban Pesach had been offered annually on the fourteenth of Nissan. However, the one difference between the commandment as it was observed in Egypt versus in Israel were the four days of preparation before the sacrifice was offered. Although seemingly insignificant, these four days provide insight into the reasoning behind the unique importance of this mitzvah necessary in order to take the Jews out of Egypt. When the Jews purchased the sheep from the Egyptians, it was assumed that they would be worshipped, as was the regular practice at the time. They were readily sold at bargain prices by the Egyptians, eager to see the Jews following in their idolatrous ways. The four days in which Bnei Yisrael publically inspected the sheep and tied them to the doorpost soon made the real purpose of these lambs abundantly clear. There could be no mistake that these sheep, who were deities for the Egyptians, would be sacrificed to Hashem. The Egyptians were infuriated, and the lives of the Jewish People were in serious jeopardy. Despite this danger, they continued to publicize the Mitzvah to the point where even after they sacrificed it, they were commanded to keep the bones as they were so that there would be no doubt that Bnei Yisrael had eaten the Egyptian god.
The Mesirat Nefesh (risking one’s soul) required on behalf of the Jews to complete such a daring Mitzvah is precisely why the Korban Pesach was chosen as their first commandment. Hashem knew that in order to be his chosen people, they had to demonstrate that they were capable of going against the grain and following Torah and Mitzvot even when it wasn’t convenient. This was the redeeming quality that proved that the Jews still had the merit to leave Egypt, and this willingness to follow the word of Hashem no matter the consequences is what has allowed us to continue to survive for thousands of years. Whether we were living in a pagan, Christian, Muslim, or atheist society, we were able to stay true to our values and beliefs, as evident in our first mitzvah ever, where we demonstrated to Hashem that we were capable of being His chosen people.