Thursday, February 02, 2006

Parshat Bo - The Paschal Lamb and Kiddush HaShem


Pasqual Lamb and Kiddush Hashem (1991)

Weekly Parsha Commentary by Binyamin Zev Kahane
Translated by Lenny Goldberg

In Parshat Bo we are introduced to the mitzvah of the Paschal Lamb. Unfortunately, like most mitzvot in the Torah, many Jews do not grasp the concept that stands behind this mitzvah. We must always remember that generally speaking, the mitzvah is a manifestation of a particular idea that G-d wants us to internalize. So let us examine this very special mitzvah so that next Passover when we partake in the eating of the "Afikoman" which commemorates the Paschal Lamb, we will hopefully be doing more than just practicing sterile ritual.

First of all, we must comprehend that the entire purpose of the plagues was to bring the nonbelieving Pharo, who upon Moses' arrival arrogantly proclaimed, "I do not know Hashem", to the recognition that Hashem, is indeed, the Almighty. When the gentile states that the Jewish God does not exist and that he does not know Him, and thus he can enslave and torture the people of this seemingly non-existent G-d, this creates the greatest "Hillul Hashem" (desecration of God's Name) that can possibly be. The devastation of Egypt via the plagues was to show the awesome power of Hashem - to prove that the God of Israel indeed exists. The plagues were, in effect, the process by which the desecration of God's Name, which was reflected through the weakness of His People, was turned into a sanctification of G-d's Name. After the heavy pounding the Egyptians suffered, it was impossible to deny the omnipotence of the Hebrew God. This is Kiddush Hashem.

But for the sanctification to be complete, something else must be done - the offering of the Paschal Lamb. This was the nail in the coffin. In Parshat Bo, chapter 12, we see that each Jewish house was commanded to take a lamb, bring it home for four days, and then slaughter it. The lamb, which was the deity of the Egyptians is taken, prepared and slaughtered before the horrified eyes of the Egyptians, who were helplessly forced to watch all this. As if this wasn't enough, the lamb had to be roasted whole - "eat not of it raw, nor broiled in water, but roast with fire; its head with its legs and with its entrails". The humiliation was now complete. The Hebrews, slaves for 210 years, had degraded their Egyptian masters, making a mockery out of their "religion". For the sanctification of God's Name to be complete, there is no room for "tolerance" of other deities. If Hashem is One, there can be no other! This is the Jewish idea of the Paschal Lamb.

The pity of the Jew today (including the religious practitioner of ritual) is his inability to perceive the Middle East crisis as a religious war -- a battle between Judaism versus Islam. While the Arab has always understood this and thus is ready to go to great lengths in the name of his religion (and for this reason they have the upper hand today), the Jew perceives events only through secular and pragmatic considerations. He does not realize that a stone thrown at a Jew is a stone thrown at the Jewish God, and a concession of any part of the Land of Israel is a declaration to the Muslims that our God is weak, God forbid. He cannot grasp that the lack of Jewish sovereignty on the Temple Mount and the presence of Arab mosques is a "Hillul Hashem" of outrageous proportions. It is only when the Jewish People comprehend that the "humiliation of Israel is a desecration of His Name" (Ezekiel 39:7 - Rashi) and that we are in a religious struggle with the Arabs, will we begin to get real help from Hashem, since only then will He have a reason to take action to defend his Holy Name.

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