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The Allure of Pesach R. Yaakov Bieler Parashat BeHa’alotcha, 5766 In Parashat BeHa’alotcha, we encounter a unique phenomenon among the events recorded in the Bible. It is the only instance where God responds to a request and “Creates” a specific new context to allow for people to fulfill a Mitzva that they otherwise would have been unable to carry out. BaMidbar 9:6-7 And it was that people who were ritually impure as a result of contact with the body of a dead human being and were unable to participate in the Paschal Sacrifice on that day, and they approached before Moshe and Aharon on that day. And those people said to him (Moshe): We are ritually impure as a result of contact with the body of a dead human being. Why should we be diminished by not sacrificing the Sacrifice of God on its proper day in the midst of the Children of Israel? Although it is certainly a virtue to strive to perform HaShem’s Commandments,1 there will be occasions when this will prove to be impossible, not necessarily because of an individual’s conscious or errant decision, which would naturally be spiritually reprehensible, but due to circumstances beyond his control. Nedarim 27a; Bava Kamma 28b Rava said: …For cases of “Onus” (duress) the Tora grants exemption (one is not considered guilty of transgression if the prohibition was violated as a result of duress) as it is written, (Devarim 22:25-6) 1 A Rabbinic interpretation reflecting such a mindset appears in Yalkut Shimoni, #201, Shemot 12, among other Rabbinic sources: (Shemot 12:17) “And you will guard the Matzot”--R. Yoshiya said: Don’t read the verse in that manner, but rather “And you will guard the ‘Mitzvot’”. (The word “Matzot” in the Tora is spelled “Mem”, “Tzaddi”, “Vav”, “Taf”, and due to the absence of vowels, can be read either as “Matzot” [unleavened bread] or “Mitzvot” [Commandments], hence R. Yoshiya’s pun.) Just as one should not allow the “Matza” to become “Chametz” (fermented as a result of the dough being allowed to lie in a static state rather than being constantly kneaded), so too do not allow “Mitzvot” to become “Chametz” but rather when the opportunity to perform a “Mitzva” presents itself, fulfill it immediately. Nevertheless, there are always exceptions, as in the instance of the Commandment to return a lost object: Devarim 22:1 You shall not see the ox of your brother or his sheep wandering lost, and you hide yourself from them (i.e., you pretend that you don’t realize that they are lost). You will surely return them to your brother. Bava Metzia 30a The Rabbis taught: Sometimes you do hide from them and sometimes you do not. How is this? a) If he (the finder) was a Kohen and it (the lost object) was inside a cemetery (the Kohen being precluded from willingly making himself ritually impure except in cases where one of his 7 close relatives die); b) he was a scholar and it was something that was beneath his dignity to be involved with (e.g., typically a scholar will not be herding a lost ox or sheep); c) his work was extremely valuable to him as compared to others (and therefore he could not financially justify taking time off to engage in this particular Mitzva).
And if in the field the a man finds a betrothed young woman, and he physically attacks her and lies with her, only the man who lay with her shall die (executed by the Jewish court, i.e., the woman is not considered to have violated the prohibition of adultery). Because he found her in the field. The betrothed young woman called out, but there were none to save her. Although the situation described in Devarim is a particular form of duress, i.e., where one individual applies force or the threat of violence in order to cause another to transgress a prohibition, the Talmud extrapolates from this instance other cases of duress that would appear to include illness and spiritual restrictions that preclude compliance with the Commandments. Naturally, if the individuals referred to in BaMidbar 9 deliberately and without good cause made themselves ritually impure, which in turn precluded them from participating in the Pascal Sacrifice, the status of “Onus” would not apply, and they would be culpable for allowing themselves to be rendered unfit to take part of the sacrifice. However, the Rabbis go to significant lengths to imaginatively assert that the people posing the question to Moshe regarding an additional opportunity to offer the “Korban Pesach” had not only not been irresponsible when they became “Tameh”, but that they had even been engaged in a most important Mitzva. Sukka 25a2 Who were these men? They were those who carried the coffin of Yosef, so says R. Yosse HaGalili. (See Beraishit 50:25; Shemot 13:19.) R. Akiva said: They were Mishael and Eltzaphon who were dealing with the remains of Nadav and Avihu. (See VaYikra 10:4 ff.) R. Yitchak said: If they were those who carried the coffin of Yosef, they had time to purify themselves before Pesach3, and if they were Mishael and Eltzaphon, they could also have purified themselves 2 The immediate context for the Talmudic passage in Sukka is the identification of a source for the principle that when one is already engaged in carrying out one Commandment, he may be exempt from other Commandments that are simultaneously obligatory. With regard to the Commandment of Sukka, the Mishna states: Those who are engaged in a religious errand—i.e., not only while they are performing a particular Commandment, but even if they are only on their way to do so—are exempt from living in a Sukka during the Festival. Assuming that one is expected to pursue Mitzva opportunities rather than avoid them, the resulting impurity from performing the Commandment of meeting the needs of one who has died and consequently cannot see to his own needs (for this reason, such activity is delineated as “Chesed Shel Emet” [lit. truthful kindness, i.e., kindness that is pristine since there is no way that the recipient of one’s actions will be in a position to reciprocate] this would appear to constitute a clear-cut situation wherein the ritually impure individual has no choice regarding subsequently offering the Pascal Sacrifice in its proper time. 3 This would have allowed them to legitimately participate in the Pascal Sacrifice during “the first Pesach”. At least one tradition maintains that the question in BaMidbar 9 was posed on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, allowing for 14 days until Pesach and therefore more than sufficient time in order to achieve ritual purification. Another view asserts that the seven days of purification following exposure to a dead body was first completed in this case on literally “Erev Pesach”, i.e., the day during which the groups who were to participate in eating the sacrifice were organized and the sacrifice slaughtered. This approach would then lump R. Yosse HaGalili, R. Akiva and R. Yitzchak together in terms of timing, with the only dispute being the identity of the dead individuals who were being taken care of. With regard to this latter view, it is also interesting to consider whether the people would have had the same objections to missing “Korban Pesach” if more time would have elapsed before their ritual purification was completed. Is the frustration that they express to Moshe due to their disqualification by a single day, or would they have complained no matter how long after the 14th of Nissan they would have become purified?
before Pesach (the deaths of Nadav and Avihu were also to have taken place on Rosh Chodesh Nissan according to Rabbinic tradition). But it was those who were engaged with taking care of a “Meit Mitzva” (lit. a deceased individual whose preparation for burial and burial constitute a religious obligation for non-relatives, since any relatives are either non-existent or unknown), the seventh day of whose purification coincided with the day before Pesach, as it is said, (BaMidbar 9:6) “They could not observe the Pesach on that day”—on that day they could not keep the Pesach, but on the next day they could. In fact, in light of the request of these individuals to be able to perform the “Korban Pesach”, and God’s Establishment of a means by which their desire could be fulfilled (BaMidbar 9:9-12) a more general Halachic principle is established: Entzyklopedia Talmudit, Vol. 1, “Ones”, p. 359. In the case of a person who is under duress and for this reason cannot fulfill a positive Commandment, the individual is not considered to be completely exempt (“Patur”) from his essential obligation to the point where he is not considered to be obligated at all, but rather he is obligated, but just unable to fulfill that obligation at this point in time (“Hudcha” [lit. deferred]). Therefore, an individual who due to duress was unable to pray the appropriate prayer during its proper time, is required to pray the “Amida” (the silent devotion) twice during the next prayer, unlike the situation where the person had been in the status of “Onen” (an individual whose close relative has passed away and it is his responsibility to see to burial arrangements. Such a person not only does not pray during the time that he is an “Onen” but he does not have to make up the prayers that he missed once the “Onen” status ceases upon the burial of his relative.)4 The case of the request concerning additional opportunities to perform “Korban Pesach” is not the only situation wherein Moshe turns to God for a decision in a Halachic matter. Other instances where Moshe receives specific Divine Guidance in order to adjudicate a situation for which he is at a loss are: a) VaYikra 24:10-23 b) BaMidbar 15:32-6 c) Ibid. 24:25; 25:1-19 d) Ibid. 27:1-11
The blasphemer; The Shabbat woodgatherer; Zimri’s sin and Pinchos’ reward; The daughters of Tzelophchad.
4 The Entzyklopedia Talmudit entry proceeds to consider an additional subtle nuance with regard to the differentiation between exemption and deferment with regard to the Pascal Sacrifice: There are early decisors (“Rishonim” that believe that there is a difference between one who is exempt from carrying out “Korban Pesach” on “the first Pesach” (15 Nissan) due to his being ritually impure or far away from where the sacrifice was being offered (see BaMidbar 9:10), that in such circumstances the Tora exempts him from “the first Pesach” and allows him to fulfill his obligation on “the second Pesach” (15 Iyar), and with respect to this “second Pesach”, there is no punishment of ritual excision (“Karet”, for not doing the “Korban Pesach”, which is not the case regarding the omission of the sacrifice on “the first Pesach”—see BaMidbar 9:13), as opposed to someone who is under duress for some other reason and therefore did not do “Korban Pesach” on “the first Pesach”, such a person should he also fail to do the sacrifice on “the second Pesach” would be culpable for “Karet” since in this case, the Tora never exempted him on ”the first Pesach” but simply deferred that original obligation, along with its concomitant punishments, to “the second Pesach”.
However, what makes the case of “the second Pesach” unique is that whereas in the other four instances where Moshe has to inquire as to what to do, each was in response to either some sort of sin, or a perceived inequity, the case of BaMidbar 9 involves people who are looking to perform an additional Mitzva despite their apparent legitimate exemption from doing so.5 In light of God’s Response, i.e., that another day, a full month after “the first Pesach” be instituted for not only those specific individuals who approached Moshe and Aharon in the desert during the year immediately following the Exodus from Egypt, but for anyone in the future as well who could not perform the “Korban Pesach” the first time around, it would appear 5 Trying to identify additional Biblical scenarios where individuals evidence their desire to fulfill Commandments for which they have a legitimate excuse to exempt them, is difficult. Two imperfect parallels come to mind: a) During Yaakov’s negotiation with Eisav for the birthright (Beraishit 25:31-3), Eisav’s states, “…Behold I am going to die!” RaShI interprets Eisav’s aversion to the birthright due to thoughts of his mortality were precipitated by Yaakov’s presentation of the status’ responsibilities: Eisav said to him, “What is the nature of this birthright?” He (Yaakov) described to him a number of the warnings, punishments and capital offenses that were directly associated with it (the Midrash RaShI quotes assumes that prior to God’s Choosing the tribe of Levi from whom to draw his Kohanim and Levi’im to serve as His Representatives, the firstborn were to fill that role. Consequently whatever applies to Kohanim that transgress, originally applied to the firstborn), as we have learned (Mishna Sanhedrin 22b), “These are subject to the death penalty: Those who carry out their duties after having drunk too much wine or who go bare-headed.” He said: If I am going to die through it, why should I desire it? Consequently, one could say that Yaakov desired the role of “Bechor” along with all of the responsibilities and dangers that it would bring. Of course, this could be countered by stating that Yaakov had merely presented the birthright in the most disagreeable manner possible in order to elicit from Eisav a negative reaction, so that Yaakov could take the status over for the purposes of asserting his superiority and power over his twin. To insist that what fueled Yaakov’s actions was the desire to become obligated in these various responsibilities is difficult to advance. The same sort of analysis could be applied to Korach’s desire to be appointed “Kohen Gadol” (BaMidbar 16). Did he want to assume all of the responsibilities and concomitant dangers, or merely to become powerful and perceived as a leader? b) A second additional instance where at first glance it would appear that people are seeking to fulfill an additional Commandment that had not previously been enacted is where the Jews approach Shmuel and demand that a king be appointed over them (I Shmuel 8:4 ff.) Ostensibly this is in accordance with the Commandment listed in Devarim 15:14-20. While Shmuel reacts angrily, nevertheless HaShem Instructs the prophet to carry out the people’s request, albeit along with the observation that the desire for a king is driven by dissatisfaction with God’s Kingship. The key to understanding why the request to establish a monarchy was not merely in order to fulfill a long-standing Biblical Commandment is the phrase appearing at the end of I Shmuel 8:5, i.e., the intent to become “KeChol HaGoyim” (like all of the nations). Generally Mitzvot separate and distinguish Jews from others; however, in this case it appears that the motivation stems from just the opposite perspective, and therefore should be understood for what it was, a tactic designed to become more removed from rather than closer to HaShem. c) A third Halachic construct whereby people initiate additional Mitzva obligations is the general topic of “Neder” (vow) and “Shevua” (oath) and the subtopics of “Nazirut” (becoming a Nazirite), “Ta’anit” (optional fasting) and “Korban Nedava” (a voluntary sacrifice). The Tora allows for these practices as evidenced by VaYikra 7:12 ff.; 7:16 ff.; 22:21ff.; 27:2 ff.; BaMidbar 6:2 ff.; 30:3 ff. (The Talmud extrapolates from the more limited case of “Nazir” wherein only wine and grape products are prohibited to the individual to the more global situation of fasting where the person commits not to eat or drink anything.) However, these categories are accompanied by negative evaluations such as those found in Devarim 23:22-3; Kohelet 5:3-6. It would seem that at least in these instances, the prohibition of (Devarim 13:1) “Bal Tosif” (don’t add to the Commandments) is in play. There is a clear difference between when an individual decides on his own to expand the Mitzva obligations that are upon him in contrast to when God authorizes doing so on the part of the entire people in perpetuity in response to a request from Moshe. Whereas the former instance could be categorized under “Dibra Tora Neged Yetzer HaRa” (the Tora is addressing the temptations of the Evil Inclination, i.e., attempting to constructively sublimate potentially negative and destructive behavior by providing a Mitzva structure for it), it is more difficult to include “Pesach Sheini” into such a rubric.
that there is something extremely significant about the Pascal Sacrifice that necessitates maximizing the opportunities that all Jews will have to fulfill this Commandment.6,7 Sefer HaChinuch, #380 “The Commandment of the second Pesach on the 14th of Iyar” offers the following rationale, which emphasizes not so much the sacrifice itself, but rather the philosophical and theological implications of the entire Pesach experience:8 …Because the Commandment of the Pascal Sacrifice is a strong and clear symbol to all “who see the sun” (a poetical reference to everyone on earth) regarding the Creation of the universe, since at that time (Pesach) God, may He be blessed, Performed on our behalf miracles and great wonders,9 and changed the nature of the world10 before the eyes of many nations, and all the nations of the world recognized that His Supervision and Omnipotence manifested themselves among those “below”,11 and at that time all truly believed, as do all that come after them for eternity, that He, blessed be He, Created the universe “Yeish MeiAyin” (lit. something out of nothing; i.e., rather than merely manipulating and molding matter that has existed eternally, HaShem first Created the matter that comprises 6 I am always intrigued by considering alternative scenarios to what is recorded in the text, i.e., in this case, what would have happened if these people had not asked for “the second Pesach”? Would it have been instituted anyway, or was this Mitzva completely a function of the people’s initiative? 7 A ritual practice that if missed, is deferred to a later point in the year, albeit “BeDi’Avad”, from the season when Tora portions from Shemot are being read to the season when the congregation reads sections from Devarim, thereby calling to mind the institution of “the second Pesach”, is the manner by which one can fulfill the Commandment to remember Amalek and what that nation tried to do to the Jewish people: Aruch HaShulchan, Orach Chayim 585:5 (Re the manner in which one can fulfill the Commandment to remember what Amalek did to the Jews and the need to obliterate their memory) …(The requirement to specifically read from the Tora the passage in Devarim 25:17-9 as a fulfillment of remembering Amalek’s heinous actions against us) can certainly be fulfilled on a Tora level when Parshat Ki Tetze is read (as part of the normal “Parshat HaShavua” cycle) from the Tora; however the Mitzva “MiD’Rabanan” (the Rabbinic legislation that “Parshat Zachor” constitute one of the “Arba Parshiot” [the four special Tora readings where a “Maftir” section is added, i.e., Parshat Shekalim, Parshat Zachor, Parshat Para and Parshat HaChodesh], can be fulfilled only on the Shabbat immediately preceding Purim… 8 From Sefer HaChinuch’s explanation of the Mitzva of Pesach, it would appear that not only was the “Korban Pesach” consumed on “the second Pesach” by those who missed the first opportunity to partake in it during the previous month, but that the entire Seder would be reenacted, particularly with respect to the telling of the story of the Exodus. Otherwise, why would eating “Pesach”, “Matza” and “Maror” alone necessarily call to mind all of the principles that the author considers the essential point of this Mitzva? Furthermore, it would appear that the story of the Exodus even on “the first Pesach” has to be taken further than what appears in the standard Haggada in order to bring to mind the issues of Creation “Yeish MeiAyin”, since no such explicit reference is made anywhere throughout the Haggada text! 9 The author is referring to: a) the signs performed before Pharoah when Moshe and Aharon first entered his court in order to request that the Jews be freed, b) each of the plagues, c) the lack of resistance on the part of the Egyptians to the Jews taking sheep for the Pascal sacrifice, d) the Egyptians’ willingness to turn over their precious possessions just prior to the Jews’ leaving, as well as e) the miraculous events surrounding the splitting of the sea and the drowning of the Egyptian pursuers. 10 The understanding of what constitutes a “miracle” represented by the author of Sefer HaChinuch is not the only rationale that is offered by traditional commentators. An alternative view would maintain that these events have been built into the Creation from its outset, and that rather than reflecting a temporary suspension of the laws of nature, nature is being true to its organization when these things take place. The miracle then becomes the anticipation and timing of these events in such a manner that they prove beneficial to the overall course of God’s Master Plan for the Universe. 11 See Shemot 15:14-16.
all things, and later imposed form on it),12 at the time that He Desired to do so, and this is the time that is known to us.13 And although a “Yeish MeiAyin” Creation is something outside of the natural order, just as is splitting the depths of the sea to the point where a numerous people can pass through on dry land and then have the waters return to their original state, keeping alive a great and mighty nation for 40 years by means of food that drops from the skies daily, as well as the other signs and wonders that He Did for us at that time, that all were innovated contrary to Nature. And the idea of the Creation of the universe is a fundamental principle in our belief and our Tora, for regarding those who believe in the eternity of the universe (i.e., that it never was created, and there never was a point in time when it did not exist), they have no Tora and there is no portion in the World to Come together with Israel; this matter is known, and there is no reason to further elaborate. Therefore it was God’s Will to provide each Jew with the opportunity to fulfill this fundamental Mitzva, and not to allow ritual impurity or distance of place to prevent its performance…And because of its great importance, it even applies to a convert who converted between “the first Pesach” and “the second”, as well as to a minor who reached majority between the two Pesach’s, that they too are obligated to fulfill “the second Pesach”. A weakness in the Chinuch’s rationale for this Mitzva would appear to be the lack of focus upon the “Korban Pesach” itself. If the entire point of “Pesach Sheini” is to contemplate God’s Creatorship as represented in the miracles of the Exodus, could this not be done without partaking in the sacrifice? It would appear that merely engaging in recounting the story of leaving Egypt with emphasis upon the theological implications of the miracles would suffice to accomplish such a purpose. Why couldn’t therefore these ritually impure people sat at a Seder, and merely omitted eating the “Pesach” as we do today? An alternative approach that explains the importance of “Pesach Sheini” entirely from the perspective of the “Korban Pesach” itself is found in a more contemporary commentary:14 Meshech Chachma on BaMidbar 9:7 …And the reason why they were commanded15 appears to be that we find in a number of places that the people were separated from idolatry and dedicated to serving HaShem, may His Unique Name be blessed, by means of the “Korban Pesach”, e.g., re Chizkiyahu, after the destruction of all of the impurities and objects of idolatry, and the bringing of sacrifices to atone for inadvertent idolatry, they performed
12 See RaMBaN on Beraishit 1:1, d.h. “Beraishit”. 13 The language of the Chinuch suggests the Rabbinic contention that God Created and Destroyed other worlds before bringing this one into existence. 14 Such an explanation would not necessitate a “Seder” and philosophical reflections regarding the Creation of the Universe, as suggested by Sefer HaChinuch. 15 The commentator contends, based upon RaShi on BaMidbar 9:1 wherein it is stated that the only Pesach celebrated during the 40 years in the desert was the year immediately following the Exodus, that the Korban Pesach of that year was specifically intended to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf.
the Pascal Sacrifice for HaShem (II Divrei HaYamim 29:5-17; 30:12).16 For this reason (the symbolic association between “Korban Pesach” and separation from idolatry) they (the Rabbis) say (Sifre on BaMidbar 9:14) “And if there sojourn with you a ‘Ger’ and he does a Pascal Sacrifice for HaShem”—one might think that he should offer such a sacrifice immediately (upon converting), in order to purify himself from idolatry. Consequently the verse states, “According to the statutes of Pesach and in keeping with its laws he will do” (i.e., he will wait until the Pesach season before bringing this sacrifice). Because the “Pesach” instructs a) regarding Divine Intervention into the affairs of man, which sets Israel apart in contrast to all other nations, whereby He Distinguished between His People and Egypt (Shemot 8:18), and he Distinguished between those who were firstborn and those who were not (Ibid. 12:29).17 And it (“Korban Pesach”) instructs b) that He Alone and by His Essence, may He be blessed, Acts without any intermediary or derivative cause, in refutation to those who claim that He Transfers His Supervision, due to His exalted Holiness, to the powers of the Spheres, the Heavenly forces which are in charge of Nature, leading to the various forms of idolatry and the manner in which they are worshipped, as RaMBaM writes in (Mishna Tora) Chapter 3 of the Laws of Idolatry.18,19 And it instructs c) that HaShem, may He be blessed, is desirous of the preservation of those that are alive, assuming that they act properly and kindly to one another. This is what ought to constitute human society in general, and for this reason it (the “Korban Pesach”) is consumed in groups (Shemot 12:46), and it is not slaughtered on behalf of a single individual (Ibid. 12:3-4). And God does not Wish human beings to be sacrificed…HaShem, may He be blessed Wishes the preservation of those that are alive in order that they can publicize His Existence and recognize His Name… It also implants within the hearts of Israel d) that all are equal and a holy nation to HaShem, their God, and that everyone is worthy of Divine Supervision. For this reason the breast and thigh (that normally are given to the Kohanim from Shelamim sacrifices that are offered, indicating their exalted spiritual status—VaYikra 7:34) from the “Korban Pesach” is not given. And it instructs e) regarding HaShem’s Will that one person ought not enslave another, (VaYikra 25:55) “They (the Jewish people) are (all) 16 Further in his commentary, Meshech Chachma refers to a similar Biblical incident in II Melachim 23:4-20, 23 involving Yoshiya. The commentator claims that special reference is made to the “Korban Pesach” whenever it becomes necessary to purify the people from involvement in idolatry. 17 Since the plague of the firstborn took place not only while the people were eating the “Korban Pesach” but the distinction between those houses in which the firstborn died and those in which they were spared resulted from whether or not blood from the sacrifice had been applied to the house’s doorposts, actually partaking in the sacrifice sharpens the recollection and association. 18 RaMBaM states that at first, Heavenly bodies were worshipped as representatives of the Divine. However, over time, they came to be viewed as “ends” in themselves, i.e., as deities and therefore worthy of worship independent of God. 19 During the plague of the firstborn, not only did human beings and animals die, but judgments were rendered against the objects of worship of the Egyptians. RaShI, according to the Midrash, on Shemot 12:12 writes: “Those made from wood rotted, metal idols melted…” Consequently the Pascal Sacrifice is once again directly associated with this phenomenon and religious lesson.
My Servants”, and not servants to servants. All of them are free. And when it is His Will that one person should not be enslaved to the next, so too He Created that a person should not stand under the influence of any other entity, be it a Heavenly Sphere, a spirit or a natural force, but rather that all as one are influenced and individually supervised by HaShem, may He be blessed, and all are equally distant from Him in absolute terms.20 The Angel is no closer to the Creator, may He be blessed, than the smallest worm in the sea, for all of them are contingent (as opposed to necessary creatures) with respect to the One True Existence, and their lives depend upon HaShem, may He be blessed, Who is the sole Cause of True Existence.21 All of this is demonstrated by the performing of the “Pesach”… Therefore, after the Jews transgressed with the Calf, HaShem, may He be blessed Commanded that they do “Korban Pesach” in the second year, to distance them and to separate them and to purify them from idolatry and its vanities. So too in the 40th year, when they erred with regard to “Ba’al Pe’or” (BaMidbar 22:3) HaShem Commanded that “Pesach” be performed in Gilgal (Yehoshua 5) despite the fact that this preceded the conquest and division of the land.22 A weakness in Meshech Chachma’s approach would appear to be the same problem from which much of Part III of RaMBaM’s Guide for the Perplexed suffers, i.e., to explain many of the Tora’s Mitzvot as rejections of idolatry would appear to limit them temporally. Whereas in the ancient Biblical world, particularly after the Exodus and prior to the entry into Israel, it was clearly important to fortify the people against idolatrous beliefs and practices as much as possible, can that be said for the contemporary world? Aside from suggestions that certain contemporary religions might be able to be categorized as idolatry when looked upon from a certain perspective, as well as metaphorical contentions regarding various “-ism’s” extent within our general civilization, it does not appear to be particularly relevant to assert that the Commandments have been single-mindedly designed for such a purpose. Whatever the reason for “Pesach Sheini”, the zealousness of the people who sought out additional Mitzva opportunities within the allowed framework of the Tora, is to be admired. And if these individuals were indeed engaged in acts of great kindness on behalf of the dead, their devotion to both “Bein Adam LeChaveiro” (Mitzvot between man and man) as well as “Bein Adam LaMakom” (between man and God) is to be admired and even emulated. While we do not have the wherewithal to receive Divine Guidance as to areas of life which might be sanctified in new ways, there are plenty of Mitzvot already “on the books” whose proper performance should be pursued and whose significance should be reflected upon.
20 Meshech Chachma makes his sweeping statement rejecting slavery pertinent to only the Jews, whose own Tora allows for the enslavement of non-Jews. See the essay “Spiritual Slavery as a Virtue”, particularly fn. 3 at http://www.kmsynagogue.org/BeShalach2.html 21 The offering and consumption of the sacrifice consequently demonstrates that the Jews were only responsible to HaShem, and to no other master, human or otherwise. 22 According to Meshech Chachma, the language in Shemot 12:25 suggests that the Commandment to carry out “Korban Pesach” takes effect only after “Bi’ah LaAretz” (coming into the land) which connotes once the conquest and division of land to the various tribes has been completed.