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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays Additional Lessons

It’s in the Bloods

Rabbi Stewart WeissNissan 8 5780
17
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By what merit did we deserve to be liberated from Egypt?

We all know the tradition that because we did not change our names or clothes, & did not inform on one another, we were "recognizable" as G-d’s chosen, & worthy. But Chazal tell us that we also were redeemed by virtue of our bloods ("B'damayich (plural) chayi - in your bloods shall you live)"; i.e. by fulfilling TWO key Mitzvot that involved blood: brit milah (circumcision); & korban Pesach, the offering of the lamb just prior to the Exodus. These were the "keys" to our exiting the prison called Mitzrayim.

But what message is being specifically sent to us through davka these 2 specific commandments, as opposed to all others?

Brit Milah is focused on the individual. It is about us. We dedicate ourselves to Hashem – in spirit and in body, to carry out G-d’s will throughout our lives. To give, even, our very blood in the name of Hashem, if so called upon.

It also reminds us, in a real sense, that our first responsibility is to ourselves. Before we can change the world, we have to change ourselves. We have to perfect ourselves. We have to devote ourselves to ourselves & prepare for our entrance into general society, where we can then hope to influence others.

I still remember my Rebbe, Rav Herzl Kaplan zt"l, telling me the story about the nebuch salesman who goes door-to-door, but when he opens his suit-case of wares to show his customers, he finds that it is empty! "Pack your bags!" he told me, urging me to spend as much time learning as I could before I entered the "real" world. Solid advice, that I will be grateful for all of my days.

But that’s just one half of the story. The other Mitzva, Korban Pesach, carries a very different message. It speaks about communal responsibility, about sharing with & caring for others, just as we had to eat the lamb in a group, having called out first to the public at large, "Whoever is hungry, come & join us!" If one does not use his hard-earned talents and blessings, whatever they may be, for the good of the Klal, then he has squandered what G-d has given him.

The korban Pesach also emphasizes the necessity to pass down our heritage, traditions & commitment to the next generation, gathering our family, chacham & rasha together, "telling the story" of the Jewish experience to one & all, so that they will continue this sacred mission when we are gone.

It was on that basis that the Almighty redeemed us. He had faith that we would live up to the great trust which he placed in us. And indeed we have, for 3332 years, & counting. In truth, we have no choice; it’s in our bloods
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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