1. Kiddush HaChodesh – sanctifying the months, according to the new moon. This was done when 2 witnesses would come to the High court on the temple mount, and successfully prove to the judges that they had seem the beginning of the new lunar cycle.The first month is Nissan, and even though most opinions hold the world was created in Tishrei,(there is a dispute in the gemarra, whether it was Nissan or Tishrei – Tosfos offers a resolution, that all creations have 2 stages. Thus in thought/planning creation commenced in Nissan, but it was only realized in the plane of action in Tishrei)- in honour of the redemption of Hashem redeeming the Jewish people, and commencing on an eternal path of receiving and living a life of Torah and divine service, Nissan superseded to be crowned as the first month.
To understand the value and usefulness of anything we first must identify its function. To say that a telephone is pretty useless since it cannot crack most nuts would be to err in its purpose. So too, a baby only measures the value of objects as to how they feel in his mouth.
If the Torah was intended to be a history book, it would be quite pathetic, as it skips so many details and years, nor does it conform to a purely chronological sequence. Similarly, if the Torah was intended to be a code of 613 laws, the first third would be quite redundant, as well as most of the text.
Our Torah is none of these, however, but a guide to life, and an all encompassing teaching as to how to live in accordance with the Creator’s will. Genesis is also called the Book of the upright / just. This is due to the fact that the patriarchs sought out and lived a life of virtue and piousness even before the Torah and its mitzvos were given. Along this vein, the sages teach that there were 26 generations before the Torah was given to teach that ‘dererech eretz’ i.e. proper character and social relations (being a mensch) precedes the higher, transcendent level of Torah and proper conduct according to the mitzvos. (26 is the gematria of Hashem’s name, and corresponding to the 26 verses in psalms which say –for His kindness is infinite – for the world was held up purely on Mercy before the Torah was given and could bring true merit to the world.)
(see also the first Rashi on the Torah for another explanation of why the Torah began with the creation story – that is to vindicate the Jews for taking the land of Israel by force from its inhabiting nations, since the world is Hashem’s and He can give it and take it from whomever He pleases.)
3. Many mitzvos related to Pesach (the offering, how to prepare and slaughter it, ) Matzah, and Chametz, Marror, the mitzvah to tell the exodus story to your children, redemption of the firstborn (man and animal) some laws of shabbos, putting blood on their doorposts, and others.
One reason that Hashem gave them these mitzvos, was to prepare them for Mount Sinai. That is, that they should already be a somewhat accustomed to mitzvos, before getting the whole package (I.e. Hashem is giving guidance on how educate and do kiruv wisely).
A deeper aspect of their necessary preparation, was to purify and spiritualize them from the depths of a most crude and idolatrous nation in which they were quite assimilated. Similarly they needed special merit to deserve to receive the holy Torah (which the angels were not so happy to let us have) – and in Hebrew merit and purify are the same word (zocheh) because true merit is attained when one overcomes himself to do meritorious deeds and thus improve oneself in the process.
4. A male lamb or kid in its first year.
5. All of it is prepared and eaten together, with its limbs bound inwards, roasted over a fire. All the aspects of the pesach represent unity, – e.g. age, male (this needs elaboration), it’s being roasted, which bids the flesh, as opposed to boiling. It being complete. This is because the essential lesson which we were being taught, was that the world has one creator, and Hashem is One – as stated in the first of the 10 commandments.
6. It is eaten with packs over our shoulders, shoes on, in haste, ready to dash out into the night.
7. They took it on the 10th of Nissan. They had four days to inspect it, and inspect themselves as well, that is, before hastily leaving, to precede with internalized, heartfelt understanding of what they were doing, and lest they regret later and say they had no time to think. It was slaughtered then, on the fourteenth, and eaten later that night, The next morning they left. Six days later they came to the Sea of Reeds – the last day of Pesach (there are customs to do a reenactment of the crossing of the sea that night, which is a holiday like the first day of pesach)
8. Because the Egyptians hurried them out after the killing of the firstborn, and they had no time to let the dough rise.
9. The left with much wealth and jewels of the Egyptians, which they gave to them to encourage them to go. (It is said that while the Egyptians were bound in the plague of darkness, the Jews went into their homes and found all of their valuables, to request them when they left) This was predestined when their forefather Avraham left Egypt with much gifts from Pharoah in his day. (For all that happened to the forefathers set a code and pattern for the rest of Jewish history.
They also left with an accompaniment of Egyptians who wanted to join them, with Moshe’s approval.
10. Many Jews did not leave. It is unclear how many, some who were deserving to be buried, were so done during the plague of darkness (so that the nations would not see and say that the Jews were equally victimized by the plagues.) Others simply were too attached to their host country and remained behind, to be lost in the dust of time, as all Jews who assimilate.
11. It lasted only 6 days (as opposed to 7) And it was split into 2 stages – first 3 days of total radiating darkness, then 3 days of thick immobilizing darkness.
12. To skip over. However it is a most unusual word for that, and so Rashi brings Tagum Onkelos (the Aramaic translation of the Torah, which is the first commentary on the Torah, and may have been given well before), who translates pesach as love or mercy, which is a much more telling description of how Hashem related to us on Peasch night, ( and so repeats every time we rearrive at that day in our calendar.)
13. All first born, from father or mother, also animals. But Jews who had the blood of their offering on their doorposts were spared. The mitzvah of redeeming the first born (pidyon haben) is from this, since Hashem reclaimed the life all firstborns that night.
The only unkosher animal which needs redemption is the donkey. There are many reasons for this – one is that the Egyptians are compared to donkeys.
14. All Jews, men, women, old, young are obligated, (as well as any owned slaves) and coverts – as long as one is circumcised.
15. There is a concept in the Torah called ‘shlichus’ or agency, whereby an action which is incumbent on a person can be appointed to be done through his agent. (E.g. accepting marital acquisition, or a get, for another) Thus each household could appoint one member to do the service on their behalf.
16. Pharoah saw a sign of blood ahead of the Jews. In truth this represented a barrier of strict justice, which they needed to overcome in order to merit the fulfillment of their redemption and receiving of the Torah. This was fulfilled by the blood of the Bris Milah, in which they exercised tremendous courage and sacrifice.
17. One word implies to withdraw, that is from idolatry, since the pesach was god of Egypt. This translates into the obligation to offer a lamb’kid in their possession.
The next word, is a more implies a more proactive taking, to combat that which is evil, and this translates into purchasing a lamb/kid – if they did not own one, since it is a more powerful action to sacrifice what one actually owns and may be connected to (especially if it represents idolatry in their world).
18. This phrase appears 4 times in chumash. And in each case it has a similar connotation, namely that the event purposely took place in the middle of the day in order to contest any scoffers who would claim that they would have revolted had it been made known to them.
Here -in taking the Jews out of Egypt before the world.
When Noah was sent into the ark, before a world of antagonists – Hashem made for him an army of animals to protect Noah, to show that Hashem’s decree is final, and His servants are under His guard.
When Avraham performed the first Briss milah in history, quite contrary to popular doctrines.
When Moshe was buried, despite the wishes of the Jewish people to retain their holy leader, Hashem giveth and Hashem taketh away.
19. It is amazing how often we recall the exodus from Egypt. Without explaining the connections and depth of each, to list a few: every shabbos (in kiddush and davening), every yontiff, by our tefillin (see parsha page) WATCH A VIDEO, when we say the 3 paragraphs of the Shma, morning and evening, on fast days, to begin the 10 commandments, pidyon haben (redeeming first born, ), first fruit offerings at the temple, we write it on our gates and doorposts in a mezuza,, WATCH A VIDEO by the mitzvah to be kind to the convert and stranger all three pilgrimage festivals : pesach, sukkos, shavuos revolve around the exodus, in bensching (after food), and in much of psalms and davening themes and episodes of the exodus are ubiquitous.
The Ramban at the end of this week’s parsha writes a classic essay explaining this in part. And his main thesis, is that as the generations descended from Adam, heresy in the world increased. From everybody once recognizing an eternal, omnipotent and imminent creator and king, to the world but, as time passed, they decided that Hashem, albeit a god, yet having little to do with the world. Eventually, they imagined that the world always was, and they denied the creator. Thus through the exodus story, Hashem, firstly demonstrated His Existence, without doubt. Secondly, Hashem demonstrated that He is not only master of the world, and transcendent of any natural law or limitation, but furthermore, that He takes a particular interest and active involvement in the providence of His creation, particularly with the nation who chose Him in return. Our faith is not based merely on cold logic about creation, nor abstract theological philosophy, which is always open for debate, and not all that motivating, but rather through personal and national experience which proves every tenet of our faith without question. And thus it is incumbent on us Jews to constantly review these truths and episodes throughout our day, year and major life events, and especially to pass it on to the next generation, which is what the pesach seder is all about.
20. These are two of the four questions asked by the sons at the seder. Can you identify which is which? and how do the responses given in the Torah compare with those in the Hagadda?
(We’ll leave you with this bit of homework until next week – – hope there was something for everyone here 🙂