Parshas Acharei Mos (Pesach Edition) 5774
Did you know this? According to our tradition, if not for ‘two bloods’, we Jews would never have made it out of Egypt and there would have been no Passover Seder!
Rash”i, in his commentary to Exodus 12:6, quotes the Mechilta which states the following: “…Rabbi Masya ben Charash used to say: [The prophet] says, ‘And I [G-d] passed over you, and I saw you, and behold, your time was a time of loving’ (Ezekiel 16:8), i.e. the time for the fulfillment of the oath I swore to Abraham, that I would redeem his children, has arrived. But they did not possess any commandments with which to busy themselves - so that they should be worthy of being redeemed, as the verse says, ‘And you were bare and naked’ (Ezekiel 16:7). So He gave them two commandments, the blood of the Paschal Lamb and the blood of circumcision, for they circumcised themselves on that night, as it says, ‘And I saw you wallowing in your bloods’ (Ezekiel 16:6), i.e. two bloods…”
We all know that the Jewish people in Egypt were commanded to sprinkle the blood of the Paschal Lamb on their doorposts on the night of Passover in order to protect them during the Plague of the Firstborn (see Exodus 12:7). Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer writes that the blood of the circumcision was also placed on the doorposts together with the blood of the lamb, so that the merit of these two bloods would earn them salvation and redemption.
In fact, at every single Passover Seder and at every single ritual circumcision since then, we recite the verse in Ezekiel 16:6: “And I said to you, ‘In your blood(s) you shall live!’”, referring to the two commandments – the Paschal Lamb and Circumcision – both involving blood, through which the Jewish nation earned redemption from Egypt and eternal life as G-d’s chosen people.
It seems that even though the Jewish people had been careful to avoid lashon hara (slander) and immorality during their long 210-year exile in Egypt, and they also kept their Jewish names, dress, language and identity, that alone was not enough. They needed to do these two positive acts to make them worthy of being redeemed from Egypt.
The question is why these two ‘bloody’ commandments were so special that their performance by the Jewish people earned them redemption above all else?
The Mahara”l of Prague, in his commentary Gur Aryeh on Rash”i, explains that circumcision on the Jew’s body marks him as G-d’s servant, while the Paschal Lamb symbolizes that he is ready to carry out G-d’s work. Only after the Jewish people accepted G-d as their King and Master, committing to serve Him and no one else - and seared it into their flesh with the circumcision and initiated themselves in to His service with the Passover offering – would they be worthy of leaving Egypt to receive the Torah and become G-d’s chosen people.
I believe that these two bloods, in whose merit the Jewish people were redeemed from Egypt over 3300 years ago, contain within them a powerful message for Jewish continuity and survival in our own times when we are faced with the twin threats of assimilation and intermarriage.
You see, each of these two commandments involves a sacrifice of sorts – the Paschal Lamb (and general Passover expenses) involves a significant monetary sacrifice while ritual circumcision involves an emotional sacrifice of inflicting some measure of ‘pain’ on a newborn baby.
Yet, surprisingly, it is these two commandments which have had incredible staying power throughout the centuries and millennia, and which are still observed today by the majority of Jews around the world.
Maybe this was G-d’s way of testing the Jewish people way back in Egypt to see whether or not they would be willing to sacrifice of themselves for G-d and His Torah. Sure the Jews kept their Jewish identities and were relatively moral and ethical people throughout their stay in Egypt. But did they have a proper appreciation of what it means to be a Jew – how wonderful is it to be a part of the Jewish people and to live a life guided by G-d and His amazing Torah – to the point that it is truly no ‘sacrifice’ at all to follow all of G-d’s commandments even if they sometimes cost extra money or a little pain?
Only after the Jewish people circumcised themselves and their children and partook of the Paschal Lamb on the night of Passover – and showed G-d that being a Jew is worth every sacrifice – did they merit being redeemed from Egypt to become a part of the Jewish people.
My friends, this Pesach as we once again sit down at yet another Passover Seder with family and friends, and we recite the verse “In your blood(s) you shall live!”, let us remind ourselves of the two bloods that our ancestors sprinkled on their doorposts in full view of the Egyptians to display their love for G-d and His Torah, and how fortunate we are to be Jewish today. And if we can inculcate this into our children, then our continuity as a Jewish nation is virtually guaranteed.
HAVE A MEANINGFUL PASSOVER!