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Parsha Bo

01/10/2019 08:25:48 PM

Jan10

The first Pesach was celebrated in Egypt, the night before the Jews were finally freed of their bonds of slavery, and is referred to in the Mishna as “Pesach Mitzrayim.”  Although “pesach mitzrayim” shared many laws with the regular laws of Pesach, or the “pesach doros” in the Mishna’s words, it is still Halachically unique in certain aspects.  One of the key differences is the emphasis the Torah places on eating the Pesach in Egypt “b’chipazon”- in a state of haste- as the Torah dictates that the Korban be consumed “with your waists belted, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand.”  “Haste” or rushing in general is Man’s resistance to the constraints of time, as if our ability to rush through an activity or experience can somehow fight against the time it consumes.  Like any Midda, Zerizus has the duality of being used for good or for bad, and is often acclaimed by Chazal and yet criticized by Chazal.  For example, the Gemara speaks of the dangers of “pesiah gasa”- walking with large strides- both in terms of how it damages one’s eyesight and how it is prohibited in the holy confines of the Temple.  At the same time, the Gemara praises the Kohanim’s quality of being “zerizim”- mastering the balance of being both methodical and efficient- in their service in the Temple.  Rushing through an activity, though, hardly seems to be a praiseworthy part of Zerizus and seems quite out of character for mitvah observance.  

In his opening piece to “Tzidkas Hatzadik,” R’ Tzadok explains the concept of “chipazon” to be a necessary tool for how to begin something new.  Because of the lack of familiarity or comfortability with the experience, one has to “throw themselves in” to the new act, and although this rushed approach compromises on the ideal precision and order that we seek in our actions, it is nonetheless instrumental in beginnings.  It is for this reason, theorizes R’ Tzadok, that only Pesach mitzrayim has the law of “chipazon,” because it was through the mitzvah of Korban Pesach that the Jews really began the process of observing mitzvos.

From a slightly different perspective, the story of our Exodus from Egypt is full of the struggle against time.  Besides this rare law of “chipazon,” the story of how matza came to be of such significance speaks to the theme of a fight against time.  Without the time for adequate preparation, the bread on our shoulders represents the freedom experience that was achieved specifically by rushing.  What is the real difference between Chametz and Matza?  Time.  A leavening agent may accelerate the process, but the insidious evil of time is very much defined by its automatic passing.  It is for this reason that Chazal derive the axiom of not delaying mitzvos from a play on words from the mitzvah of matzah.  The Torah writes: “And you shall guard the matzos,” simply to ensure that they will not become chametz, and yet, Chazal say that the word matzos can be changed for mitzvos and we should interpret the point of the Torah as not to delay the observance of a mitzvah.  The name of Pesach itself, to skip, also invokes the theme of resisting time, as if the natural course of time would never bring us to Redemption and had we waited patiently it never would have come.  Chazal teach that we stooped to the 49th level of impurity in Egypt, with the point of no return being 50, and we had to “skip steps,” so to speak, as we ran after God to the wilderness.  In Shir Hashirim’s depiction of the love-story of Israel and God, the verbs “running” and “skipping” are often used by the author as a way of portraying this point of how the Redemption occurred.  Ordinarily, we are taught that we should to teshuva for our sins and stop the bad we do before we precede to new mitzvos, “sur me’ra” before “aseh tov,” and yet the Redemption from Egypt occurred supernaturally by using a new “aseh tov” to somehow extricate the Jews from the depths of “ra.”  Ironically, the first two steps of Seder night- the night of Seder or order- are Kadesh, Urchatz, to sanctify and then to wash, because our Redemption from Egypt is this exception as it creates a new sense of “order” as we skipped steps to leave Egypt without being adequately prepared. 

There is a fascinating Mechilta in our Parsha that observes the Torah telling Jewish parents the value of educating their children about the Redemption, and how to properly respond to their questions.  On this Pasuk of “when your children will ask,” the Mechilta comments that the Pasuk is alluding to the tragedy of Torah being forgotten.  A strikingly similar comment is found in Shabbos 138b when the Tan’aim entering the new Yavneh Beis Midrash lamented the tragedy of forgetting Torah completely, or the evolution of Halachic dispute.  It seems that the Mechilta is saying that children will not ask only because they were never taught- they may be asking because they have forgotten, and it is the parent’s duty to review the material.  After all, there are four sons who ask questions, and everyone was once the young child who did not know how to ask and was introduced to the Peasch story, and yet, there are still three other children who ask what Pesach is all about, because the Pasuk is emphasizing that Torah will be forgotten.  What significance is there to the Torah stressing how the story of Pesach and Torah will be forgotten if we do not review it?  Perhaps this is the depth of Pesach’s struggle against time, because Pesach stands to be forgotten particularly because it happened so quickly and hurriedly in a way that stood against the natural progressions of time that eventually time catches up with Pesach and takes its toll on memory.  We forget for many reasons, but two of the chief variable are the way the information entered our head and the time since we learned the information.  We learned about Pesach in a fast way that blurred the clarity of what transpired, almost like cramming for an exam, and when the passage of time catches up, our memories are left hazy about what Pesach was all about.  Perhaps this is why the Torah immediately introduces other mitzvos that are meant to be “zecher leyitzas mitzrayim,” memory aids as ways to help us remember, such as Tefillin, Mezuzos, and Pideon Haben.  Pesach had to happen “b’chipazon” in a necessarily hurried way that freed us of Egypt, but we are left with much work to do to retain the lessons of Pesach for the future.

Tue, July 16 2019 13 Tammuz 5779