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“Pesach Egypt” and “Pesach Lot”


Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon

Am Yisrael eats Matzot on Pesach. Lot also ate Matzot, and our Sages tell us that it was Pesach at the time. (Rashi, Genesis 19, 2) There are many parallels between "Pesach Lot" and "Pesach Egypt". We won’t delve into them now, but we will attempt to discern some common points.

Lot is commanded not to look back. In the future, Am Yisrael will be commanded not to return to Egypt. What is the significance of this commandment? In both cases, we find, intermingled, the righteous and the wicked. In both cases, Am Yisrael absorbed some of the Egyptian culture (our Sages refer to Egypt’s "49 gates of impurity"), and Lot certainly absorbed the wicked culture of Sodom.

In order to be saved, a decision must be made: exactly where are you! To be saved, a clear-cut decision must be made to disconnect from evil and wickedness, and to connect to the inner self.

In both instances, one must finally leave that place, that home "arise and go out". Both narratives prohibit looking back or returning to Egypt – it is necessary to completely disconnect. Only severing the ties will bring salvation.

Thus, for example, it says in Mechilta d’Rabbi Yishmael in Parshat Bo (Masechta d’Pischa, Parsha 5): "He said to them, ‘remove your hands from idolatry, and cleave to the Mitzvot’." In order to be saved, Am Yisrael, which was immersed in a culture of idolatry, must totally withdraw from idol worship. They must make clear-cut decisions. They must disconnect from Egyptian culture. Only such a decision will bring salvation and redemption.

This explanation is reinforced by another parallel between "Pesach Egypt" and "Pesach Lot". Both cases demand action that entails great risks, while sending a signal that the rules or culture of that place are unacceptable. Lot risks his life by welcoming the guests into his home, thus demonstrating that he disconnected from Sodom and its ways. Am Yisrael slaughtered the sheep – the God of Egypt – thus announcing their disengagement from Egypt!

It was extremely difficult for Lot to disconnect from Sodom. In fact, the Torah describes that he "hesitated". His wife, on the other hand, could not disconnect. She looked back and became a pillar of salt.

Am Yisrael succeeded and disconnected – "they could not hesitate" – and as a result, they were saved from Egypt. (It is possible that they also may have hesitated, but Hashem helped them by having the Egyptians forcibly expel them, not giving them a chance to hesitate.)

In a beautiful Midrash, our Sages relate that despite the fact that idolatry took hold among Am Yisrael, Hashem, so to speak, disregarded it, thus saving His people:

Our Sages said: "Kol Dodi hineh zeh ba" refers to Moshe. When he addressed Am Yisrael and announced they would be redeemed in this month, they said: Moshe Rabbeinu, how can we be redeemed when all of Egypt is filled with the dirt of our idolatry? Moshe replied: since He desires your redemption, He does not look at your idol worship, but He "medaleg al he’harim" (skips over the mountains.)

And so it turns out that despite the practice of idol worship by Am Yisrael, their desire to disconnect from it caused the "Dod" to "skip over" that idolatry and redeem the Jewish people.

In both cases – "Pesach Egypt" and "Pesach Lot" – Matzot must be eaten. Matza expresses the concept of individuality and internalization of identity – the disengagement from foreign cultures. In order to be redeemed, we must regain our individuality and cut all ties with detrimental cultures.

This is pinnacle of redemption: the matza! Only by reaching a decision to disconnect and reject the influence of the cultures of Sodom and Egypt can we be redeemed.

At the conclusion of the Seder night, we recite the liturgical poem, "Ometz Gevuratecha". We refer to "Pesach Lot" and recall the parallels to "Pesach Egypt". In this manner, we understand the need to reject malfeasance and disconnect entirely from the inimical flaws from within. We can decide that were are servants of Hashem, and not subjugated by any other power!
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