We Are One Person
By Rabbi Shlomo Jarcaig
“You may not slaughter the Pesach offering in one of your cities…except at the place that G-d your L-rd will choose to rest His name, there you shall slaughter the Pesach offering in the afternoon, when the sun descends, the appointed time of your departure from Egypt.” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 16:5-6)
Unlike the other festivals referenced in its discussion of the Annual Festival Celebrations, the Torah’s review of Pesach (Passover) includes the detailed laws of the offering unique to it.
Indeed, this mitzvah (Divine command) was the first that the Children of Israel were given as a nation in which everyone was able to participate.
Our Sages relate that in the merit of fulfilling this mitzvah the Jewish Nation was redeemed from Egypt. Because of what unique facet of this mitzvah did G-d detail it here, in the midst of a general narrative about the festivals, preference not given to any other mitzvah of any of the holidays?
Maharal (acronym of Rabbi Yehuda [ben Betzalel] Loewe; 1526-1609; Chief Rabbi of Moravia, Posen and Prague and a seminal figure in Jewish thought in the last half millennium, he authored numerous works in all fields of Torah) explains that the theme of the Pesach offering is oneness. It must be eaten in one sitting at one place; it must be one year old; its bones must be left whole and unbroken; and it must be roasted over fire, not cooked in water, because roasting causes the meat to contract, unlike liquid which allows it to moisten and expand. Furthermore, this offering required a lamb, an animal to which the Children of Israel are compared.
The Midrash (Vayikra Rabba 4) explains that when a lamb is smitten in one limb the pain is referred to all the limbs. Similarly the Children of Israel share each other’s pain; when Jews suffer anywhere in the world, Jews half a world away feel their agony and anguish.
The Talmud (Tractate Bava Metzia 114b) comments that the Jews are called “Adam” but the gentiles are not called “Adam”. Rabbi Meir Shapiro (1887-1933; Rabbi of Lublin and founding Rosh Yeshiva/Dean of Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin; originator of the Daf Yomi cycle of studying a daily folio of Talmud; member of the Sejm [Polish Parliament]) decoded this cryptic passage: Adam was one human. So, too, the entirety of the Jewish People may number millions of souls, but are called Adam because they share one another’s pain as one entity, unified in their source and their mission.
The gentiles of the world, whether of common religion or common ethnicity, do not identify as one “person”, sharing the pain of co-religionists thousands of miles away.
This survey of the festivals focuses on appreciation of the blessings bestowed upon us, but the verses connect these expressions of thanksgiving to our recollection that we were slaves to Egypt who were subsequently released. Our oneness of old brought our redemption then, and when we again maintain that standard we will be redeemed again.
Have a Good Shabbos!
Copyright © 2003 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