Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Yechezkel, 16:6-7: “And I passed over you and I saw you wallowing in your blood, and I said, ‘by your blood shall you live’, and I said, ‘by your blood shall you live’. I made you as numerous as the plants of the field; you increased and grew, and you came to have great charm…and you were naked and bare. Rashi, Yechezkel, 16:6: sv. In your blood shall you live: “That which it repeated [these words] twice, is because they were redeemed through the blood of the Pesach and the blood of circumcision.” Rashi, Yechezkel, 16:7 sv. And you were naked and bare: From the Mitzvos. Rashi, Shemos, 12:6. sv. And it will be for you a guarding:...”R’Masya ben Cheresh says, it says ‘and I passed over you and I saw you’…the oath that I swore to Avraham that I would redeem his sons, and they didn’t have any Mitzvos with which to be busy with so that they [would deserve to] be redeemed, as it says, ‘and you were naked and bare’. And he gave them two Mitzvos; the blood of Pesach and the blood of circumcision, because they were circumcised on that night, as it says,;you were wallowing in your blood’…” The Prophet Yechezkel recounts the story of Yetsias Mitzrayim and says that HaShem told the Jewish people that in truth they were not worthy of being redeemed because they had not performed any Mitzvos up to that time. Therefore HaShem gave them two Mitzvos involving blood; Korban Pesach (the Pascal Lamb offering) and Bris Mila. By performing these Mitzvos they would have enough merit to somewhat deserve the incredible kindness of being taken out of Mitzrayim. The commentaries ask why HaShem chose to instruct them in these two Mitzvos in particular. One could ask further, why one Mitzvo was insufficient. In order to answer these questions it is first necessary to see if there is anything unique about these two Mitzvos. The Sefer Hachinuch indeed finds a unique aspect : There are a significant number of negative Mitzvos for which transgression incurs the onesh (punishment) of kares. However, there are only two positive Mitzvos for which the punishment is kares for one who fails to observe them; Bris Mila and Korban Pesach. What is the significance of these two Mitzvos that makes them unique in this aspect? In a relationship between two people such as marriage, there are certain actions that can damage the relationship but not cause it to be completely destroyed. However, there are things that are so serious that they could indeed end the relationship. Similarly, committing a sin causes a breach in the relationship between a person and HaShem. The significance of the breach is determined by the seriousness of the sin. There are some sins which damage the relationship to such a degree that they cause irrevocable harm. These often incur the onesh of kares. In contrast, neglecting to perform a positive Mitzvo can damage a relationship in that it prevents possible ways of increasing one's closeness to HaShem. However, it is very difficult to envisage how a lack of positive actions can irrevocably damage one's relationship with HaShem. This explains why failure to carry out most positive Mitzvos does not incur kares. Yet Bris Mila and Korban Pesach are different: In order to begin a marriage according to the Torah outlook, a person must undertake a commitment to join in unity with his wife. Without such a commitment there is no genuine relationship - one can do all kinds of nice deeds but, in the Torah's eyes, they are not married until they perform the wedding ceremony prescribed by the Torah. In a similar way, a person needs to make a commitment to HaShem to undertake his relationship with Him. Without such a commitment he cannot begin to have a true relationship. Bris Mila and Korban Pesach are both types of covenants with HaShem, whereby a Jew commits to keeping the Torah. Another connection between these two Mitzvos is that there are two occasions when Eliyahu HaNavi visits the Jewish people; at a bris mila and on Seder night, the night when we remember the korban Pesach. This is because Eliyahu, exasperated at the Jewish people's continued sinning, declared that there was no hope for them. In response, ordered him to visit every Bris Mila which would show that , no matter how much the people may sin, they still keep the covenant between them and HaShem. Similarly, Eliyahu comes at Seder night to see the Jewish people celebrate their birth as a nation. The question remains, why is it necessary for there to be two Mitzvos that involve the basic commitment to doing HaShem's will, why wouldn't it be sufficient for one Mitzvo to fulfill this role? The answer is that the two Mitzvos represent different aspects of a commitment. Bris Mila was first commanded to a single individual, Avraham Avinu, to form his covenant with HaShem. Thus, bris mila represents a person's commitment to his individual relationship with HaShem and all that entails. The Korban Pesach represents our commitment to HaShem as part of the Jewish people. The laws of the korban Pesach emphasize the importance of fulfilling the Mitzvo in groups, stressing the national aspect of the Mitzvo. Accordingly, it is necessary to have two forms of covenants; one between the individual and HaShem, and one between a person as a member of the Jewish people, and HaShem. We can now understand why HaShem gave these two Mitzvos in particular to the Jewish people at the time of their spiritual ‘birth’. It was insufficient for them to merely perform an arbitrary Mitzvo, rather they first needed to make a tangible commitment to keeping the relationship with him. Accordingly, HaShem gave them the two Mitzvos that represent that commitment – once they fulfilled them they now showed that they were willing to be HaShem’s chosen nation and that gave them enough merit to be redeemed. The reason that there were two Mitzvos and not one is that they needed to make the commitment on two levels; one as an individual and one as a part of the nation. Pesach is the time that our nation was born. Every Pesach the energy of spiritual rebirth is at its strongest. Bris mila and Korban Pesach teach us that it is essential to renew our two levels of commitment to our relationship with HaShem; as individuals who have a responsibility to grow in our personal connection to Him; and as part of the nation. This second obligation is a little less clear than the first, and involves different requirements for different people, but the common denominator is that it requires that we feel a connection to all Jews, no matter what their spiritual level, and a responsibility to help them in both the physical and spiritual realm. Pesach is a time to contemplate whether we are doing enough in this realm and ow we can improve. May this year we see a complete return to Yerushalayim.

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