April 6, 2012

In Exodus 12:43 we read: ” Zot Chukat Hapesach” this is the law of the Pascal offering.

Most people think that Chok/Chukah means an inexplicable law but this is incorrect. It rarely means that. For example, look at Deut 4:5-6 ” Look, I have taught you chukkim and mishpatim…………. Guard them and keep them for it is your wisdom and discernment in the eyes of the peoples.

How could irrational laws be our wisdom in the eyes of the people?

The Talmud explains that Chok/Chukah is a law either preceded by or followed by details. If any of these details are missing or not kept that the mitzvah is not fulfilled (le’ikuvah).

The law of Pesach is one of the most rational, understandable of all the mitzvot but is called a Chok. Zot Chukkat Hapesach.

Now look at the list of the detailed requirements that follow this opening statement.
I’ll number them for ease.

1. It has to be eaten in one house.

2. No part of the meat may be taken outside the house.

3. No bone of the pascal offering may be broken.

4. It must be eaten before midnight. The shortest time span of any Korban (offering)

5. The lamb has to be under a year old.

6. It has to be roasted not boiled.

Why? To what do these laws point? What is the message?

It is well known that the lamb was one of the idolatries of the ancient Egyptians. Already in Genesis 46 Yosef warns the brothers to say that they are shepherds as this is an abomination to the Egyptians and that way the Jews will be kept separate.

To take a lamb on the 10th of Nisan, tie it to the bedpost, and shecht it on the first Pesach eve was the most extreme provocation imaginable.

All these details point to one thing. The strong lesson to the Jews was/is YICHUD HASHEM ( the Unity of God. HaShem is ONE.

Eaten in one house – an obvious pointer to unity.

Nothing to be taken outside. The same lesson.

No bone broken. The offering was to be kept whole ie unified. A unit.

Before midnight. The same day. One day only. After midnight we are going into the next day. Again pointing to the number one.

Under a year old. Once it gets to a year old it enters it’s second year ( a duality) and is disqualifiied. The theme continues.

Roast not boiled. Perhaps the least obvious but the chefs amongst you will know that when you roast everything shrinks and becomes more unified whereas when you boil everything expands and eventually breaks into pieces. Roast points to unity – boiled points to disunity.

So we see that in the details of the mitzvah of Korban Pesach was contained a fundamental lesson. This is true of the details of all the mitzvot. We just have to look for them.

Wishing you all a kosher, tasty and happy Pesach wherever you are.

Rabbi Meir Wise


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