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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Bo

Parashat Bo

Thank Hashem With Your Palate

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We usually think of a korban (sacrifice) as an offering to Hashem. When it is an olah, only the altar gets a share. Parts of a chatat go to kohanim. Regarding shelamim, even the person who offered the korban gets a share. However, the focus is more on the offering and the altar’s "eating" than on the leftover portions that humans eat. The one exception to this rule is the Korban Pesach, as we will demonstrate. In certain cases, public korbanot that should not normally be brought because of tumah (impurity) are brought despite the tumah. However, the meat is not eaten, as the korban is significant without eating. Only in regard to Korban Pesach do we allow eating of the holy yet impure meat, as the mishna explains (Pesachim 75b), because "it only came in the first place in order to be eaten."

Not only is there a mitzva to eat the Korban Pesach but there are also many halachot of how to eat it. It must be roasted, must not be underdone, must be eaten in one night, and one must not break its bones. The Sefer Hachinuch explains that all of these halachot enable the eating to resemble that of noblemen. Apparently, the Korban Pesach is not just to thank Hashem for saving us (although that is a major part of it). Rather, we are supposed to celebrate in style. But why should we celebrate specifically within the context of a korban?

Before answering, let us see a fascinating passage in the Ohr Hachayim. The Korban Pesach should be eaten along with matza and maror (bitter herbs) (Shemot 12:8). The simple explanation is that even when focused on that which the Korban Pesach represents, we should not forget the hard work that maror represents or the concepts behind matza. However, the Ohr Hachayim (ad loc.) explains that the matza and maror improve the Korban Pesach’s taste. Is good taste the extent of the significance of matza and maror in this context? Actually, the Ohr Hachayim explains that something very deep lies behind the surface of the improved taste.

The Ohr Hachyim says that the Korban Pesach represents the essence of geula (liberation), maror represents the exile, and the matza represents the speed with which the geula was carried out. Just as the physical matza and maror make the Korban Pesach taste better, so too did the speed of the liberation and even the fact that it was preceded by exile give the geula more significance. He explains that Bnei Yisrael wouldn’t have reached the level they did had without the exile that preceded the geula.

Returning to the matter of celebratory eating, let us realize the following. The more we use physical celebration to appreciate our freedom and our status of nobility, the more we can grasp the magnitude of that which Hashem did for our nation when he liberated us from Egyptian bondage with miracles and signs. Let us always appreciate and thank Hashem for the good He bestows upon us.


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