Just Do It!
by Rabbi Pinchas Avruch
With all of the dazzling events in this week's parsha - the plagues of
locusts, darkness and the killing of the firstborn, leading to the release
of the Jewish nation from Egyptian servitude - one of the most significant
transformations almost gets lost in the fray. In a prelude to the
forthcoming revelation at Sinai, the Jewish people start to receive the
Divine commands that are the framework of our life long pursuit of G-d
consciousness, the mitzvos.
One of the first mitzvos they receive is that of the Korban Pesach (Paschal
sacrifice). "On the tenth of the month (of Nissan) you shall take, each man
a lamb for the father's house, a lamb for the household...And it shall a
safekeeping for you until the fourteenth day..." (Shemos/Exodus 12:3,6) But
the mitzvah to set aside the lamb four days early was unique to that first
year. Why were the Jews in Egypt given this special condition? Rashi
explains that when they did take the sheep, Moshe said "Draw and take for
yourselves a sheep" (12:21); two verbs were needed because the Jewish people
in Egypt were steeped in idolatry and the lamb was one of the deities, thus
the action of setting aside the sacrifice involved withdrawing from heathen
worship and taking a lamb for the service of G-d, for the performance of a
But how has this answered the question? How does their idolatrous state
explain the four day delay? First, they, like the entirety of the Egyptian
populace, had just witnessed nine stunning miracles, nine awesome displays
of G-d's absolute majesty over nature purely for the benefit of the Children
of Israel. How at this point could they entertain the possibility that there
is any power in the universe other than G-d? And if, somehow, they would
maintain a faith in idols, then they would not perform the service of
slaughtering the lamb. Surely they could not commit such an act against
their god. So what did that generation gain in the four days that served to
draw them away from idolatry?
Rabbi Alter Henach Leibowitz (Rosh Yeshiva/Dean of Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim in
Forest Hills, Queens, New York) expounds that in the deepest reaches of
their hearts there was a penetration of the heathenous philosophies that
even the nine plagues could not uproot. Yes, there was now an intellectual
appreciation that G-d is the only force in the universe, but that would not
budge the inculcated belief that came from decades of practice. This
non-emotional acknowledgement would EVEN allow them to complete the rites of
the Korban Pesach, but deep down in the core of their being, the idolatrous
beliefs would still be intact. True and complete cleansing was possible only
through contemplative action. The physical exercise of premeditatedly
setting aside a lamb and appreciating the significance this lamb played in
his service of G-d had the impact to truly bleach the heart of decades of
idol worship, more than did the witnessing of the first nine plagues.
We often talk of the Torah we would like to study, the acts of chesed
(kindness) in which we would like to participate, the lashon hara
(slanderous gossip) we wish we did not speak. The common response is
"Actions speak louder than words," but it is much more than that. Action is
not the way we express our sincerity. Action is the way we CREATE our
sincerity. The only way we can truly uproot the old and supplant it with the
new and improved is to force ourselves to go through the motions and
generate the new habits.
Have a good Shabbos!
Copyright © 2002 by Rabbi Pinchas Avruch and Project Genesis, Inc.
Kol HaKollel is a publication of the Milwaukee Kollel Center for Jewish
Studies 5007 West Keefe Avenue; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; 414-447-7999