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The Eternal Impact of the Exodus

by Rabbi Yehudah Prero

"Toschav V' Sachir Lo Yo'chal bo." "A foreigner and a hired servant shall not eat of it (Shmos 12: 45)." From this verse, the Rambam (Maimonides) learns that it is forbidden to feed a non-Jew any portion of the Korbon Pesach, the Pesach offering. This prohibition, the commentators explain, is obviously on the Jew ­ that he is prohibited froom feeding ­ as the Torah does not set forth commandments for non-Jewws. The Torah (Shmos 12:43) mentions a similar prohibition "ben neichar lo yo'chal bo," from which we learn that there is a prohibition on feeding an apostate the Korbon. This later teaching presents a difficulty. While the Torah clearly does not establish commandments for non-Jews, and therefore the words "lo yochal bo," "shall not eat from it," ­ refer to the prohibition of feeding nnon-Jews, an apostate, while non-believing, is still a Jew. Yet, according to the Rambam, the prohibition by an apostate is feeding him the Korbon. Why, if the Torah is applicable to all Jews, is the verse to be read in this way that is clearly outside of the simple meaning?

The Rambam (Hil. Melachim 9:1) writes that originally, Adam was given six commandments. Then, when Avraham came, he was given the commandments of circumcision and he prayed Shacharis ­ the morning prayer. The Rambam continues this chain throough the forefathers, and arrives at Amram, the father of Moshe. In Egypt, Amram was given other commandments, until Moshe arrived, and though him, the entire Torah was completed. Rav Yitzchok Hutner zt"l explains that there should really be no difference in status between the commandments Amram and Moshe received. Both of them received commandments in Egypt. However, only those told to Moshe had the imprimatur; they were the commandments that "completed the Torah." Why this difference in distinction?

Through Moshe being given commandments in Egypt, the foundation was set for the exodus. The people in Egypt started their metamorphosis from children of Yaakov to the nation of Israel. The giving of the commandments to Moshe enabled the people to emerge from the exodus as a united nation, and they are therefore referred to as "those that completed the Torah." There is an inextricable connection between the commandments given to Moshe and to the departure from Egypt, and this bond, of course, has eternal effects.

If a person, in the days when the Korbon Pesach was offered, violated the commandments concerning its consumption, he was liable for the punishment of Kares, death at a young age. However, this was not true the first year the offering was brought ­ in Egypt. We know that in thhat year, the "Mashchis," the "destroyer," that the Torah (Shmos 12:23) speaks about, smote all who did not bring the offering. Therefore, no punishment of Kares was needed. Any apostates in Egypt never made it out, thanks to the Destroyer. Yet, we know that the commandments given to Moshe have a bond to the exodus, and therefore had to have been applicable to those that left Egypt. The prohibition relating to an apostate's consumption, therefore, has to relate to someone who indeed left. It is for this reason, Rav Hutner says, that the Rambam learned that the prohibition vis a vis an apostate is on feeding an apostate the offering, not on the apostate himself eating.

This explanation does not merely serve to elucidate adifficulty in the logical analysis of a law. It illustrates that all we do on Pesach ­ not eating chometz, eating matzo,, reclining at the Seder, etc. ­ relates directly back to a pivotal mmoment in our nation's history. The Exodus is of such primary importance to the formation of the nation of Israel that the commemorations we have of that time reflect the actualities of that time. If we are capable of truly feeling like we have departed from Egypt through our dedication to performing these commandments and rituals to their proper perfection, we have then fulfilled the words found in the Hagadah ­ In every generation, a pperson is obligated to feel as if he left Egypt.


For questions, comments, and topic requests, please write to Rabbi Yehudah Prero.


 
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