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Kahal Yisrael: The Passover Sacrifice

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Am Yisrael is commanded to offer the Passover Sacrifice, Korban Pesach. This is a very moving event, and the more we examine it, the more moving it becomes.

Is the Korban Pesach a personal or communal sacrifice?

On the one hand, it exhibits signs of a personal sacrifice: each individual brings his own sacrifice, as opposed to a communal sacrifice, in which there is one sacrifice for the entire people.

On the other hand, a personal sacrifice is brought at any time one chooses. In this case, there is one set time for everyone.

Maimonides, in his introduction to the Mishnayot of Kodshim, writes that sacrifices of Olat Re’eya and Shlamim, which are brought for Shalosh Regalim are personal sacrifices, since each individual makes his own sacrifice; on the other hand, the Korban Pesach is a communal sacrifice since it is brought simultaneously by all, and the time is so significant that even if it falls on Shabbat, it overrides Shabbat and the sacrifice must be made on that day. (This is true even if the entire public is impure.)

At the same time, there is an aspect here of a personal sacrifice, since each individual brings his own. For this reason, Maimonides called the Korban Pesach a personal sacrifice that is commensurate to a communal sacrifice.

In fact, the first time in the Torah that Am Yisrael is referred to as "Klal" is in the case of the Korban Pesach. First, is Adat Yisrael: "and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at dusk.(Shemot 12, 6)" For this reason it was important that every individual be a partner to the Korban, and that even the impure joined and asked to be partners and, therefore, accepted the laws of Pesach Sheni.

The first Korban Kahal Yisrael was specifically brought in this manner. On the one hand, each individual brings his own sacrifice, as does each family (and later each group on the Temple Mount.) On the other hand, they all bring the sacrifice at the same time and in the same manner.

This sacrifice is complete, with all its parts. It may not be cut. (According to Maimonides, even the thigh tendon is not removed.) This sacrifice represents the unity of Klal Yisrael, and therefore it must be whole.

Every household becomes a miniature Temple: blood on the side-posts and the lintel, and consuming the sacrifice within the home:

"And they shall take of the blood, and put it on the two side-posts and on the lintel, upon the houses wherein they shall eat it." (Shemot 12, 7)

Klal Yisrael does not forget the private home of each individual, the special home of every Jew; yet, at the same time, we must remember that each Jew’s greatness emanates from belonging to the entire congregation of Israel. The Klal does not ignore the individual, but each individual understands that he draws his strength from the Klal.

There is a wondrous connection in the building of Am Yisrael. Each individual and each family is in his own home, but they are actually together, as one. There is, at times, the unity of the communal sacrifice, when sacrifices are brought for the entire tzibbur. However, there is also a unique aspect to the joint evolution of this Kahal, even though seemingly each family is on its own.

We must internalize this important cornerstone of Jewish life, when we do not have the Temple, during our holidays and our prayers. Although the private celebrations take place in every home and every synagogue separately, Klal Yisrael celebrates together. While we each pray from our private Siddur and in our regular synagogue, Klal Yisrael prays uniformly (despite some minor variations), and at uniform times.

The most significant access to our Creator is always through the Klal. Even when the individual turns to his Creator, it is as part of the tzibbur.

And thus wrote Maran Harav Kook (Orot Yisrael, 2, 3. Shmone Kvatzim):

"The soul of each Jew originates in the Life-Source of the universe via the conduit of the national collective, and the collective provides soul to the individuals."
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