Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Why did God ask the Israelites to select the Paschal lamb four days before it was needed?

The verses:

Exodus 12:3
Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household.

Exodus 12:6
Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight

What made the four day delay necessary?

Cites R. Masya ben Charash (a tanna) who said that the time had come for the Exodus, but the Israelites didn't yet merit it. So what's a benevolent God to do? Like a loving father who doesn't wish to set up his son for failure, God gave the Israelites two mitzvos so that they might earn the redemption. They were circumcision and the Paschal sacrifice. The four days were needed so that the Jews could remove themselves from idolatry in advance of offering the sacrifice. A hint to this is found in Exodus 12:22 where regarding the lamb the Israelites are told מִשְׁכוּ וּקְחוּ or draw out and take. Homiletically, this means "Withdraw from idolatry and take the Paschal lamb" (though on the spot Rashi reads מִשְׁכוּ וּקְחוּ differently)

Gur Aryeh
The Israelites spent four days inspecting the lamb; by immersing themselves in the commandment for four days they became worthy for the redemption (refer to Sefer Hachinuck on this exact section where he teaches the great lesson: "Your Character is Created Only By Your Actions".)

Daas Zekeinim 
They started the process of sacrifice and circumcision on the tenth of the month. However (a) They were meant to leave immediately after offering the sacrifice; and (b) you can't travel for three days after being circumcised. Therefore, a four day wait was needed

Shmos Rabba
The Israelites could not sacrifice until they were circumcised. The first command to circumcise came on the tenth day, but many people ignored it. When Moses sacrificed on the fourteenth day the odor of the sacrifice appealed to everyone, and even the uncircumcised begged to taste it. Said Moshe "Dinner will be served post-op." The people complied, mixed their circumcision blood with the sacrificial blood (see Ezekiel 16: 6) and the rest is history

Nachum Sarna:
There's a thematic parallel here with Tishrei, the other "first" month, and a month that also has a major festival at mid-month. In Tishrei, the tenth day of the month is the Day of Atonement. At the Exodus, the tenth day of Nissan was the day when the Israelite received their first commandment, the day that they circumcised themselves, the day that the nation, as a whole, rededicated itself to God in anticipation of the redemption. Forty years later, the tenth of Nissan was the day the Jordan River was crossed, that is in addition to being the founding day of the Jewish nation, it became the first day Israelites walked on holy soil, and began to take possession of the  land.

Search for more information about 10 Nissan at 4torah.com.

No comments: