May 27, 2024
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The Jewish Home as the Building Block of the Nation

In this week’s parsha, the Torah details the last three of the 10 plagues, culminating with the plague of Makat Bechorot. Before the final plague, Hashem prepares Am Yisrael for the devastation to come and the Exodus that will follow. Smack in the middle of that description, God commands Bnei Yisrael regarding the Korban Pesach. Each family is told to set aside a sheep to be slaughtered on the 14th of Nissan, and then eaten that evening as a family, with the blood of the animal being placed on the doorposts to protect Am Yisrael during Makat Bechorot.

It seems clear from the text that the bringing of the Korban Pesach was a crucial step in the Exodus process, given the placement of its laws in the midst of God’s instructions concerning the departure from Egypt. Which raises a fundamental question: why must the Korban Pesach take place now? Bnei Yisrael brought all their animals out of Egypt; couldn’t they have brought the korban afterward in the desert? Why was this korban such an important step in the Exodus itself?

If we look closely at the details of the Korban Pesach, another fundamental question emerges. Although we refer to it as a “korban,” a “sacrifice,” the initial Korban Pesach doesn’t seem to be a sacrifice at all: It’s missing all the defining characteristics of a korban. Typically, sacrifices were defined by specific rituals: certain parts of the animal were burnt upon the altar in the Mishkan, and the animal’s blood was sprinkled upon the altar as well. The sheep slaughtered by Am Yisrael the night before the Exodus, however, possessed neither of these defining rituals; in fact, the Mishkan and altar didn’t even exist! What the Korban Pesach really seems to be is a shared family meal—a fact highlighted by the number of times the word בית appears in the pesukim describing the korban. So, once again, why was all of this necessary, specifically the night before they left Egypt?

While a number of answers are offered to this question, I want to share a suggestion that I heard from my father, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, that I believe highlights a crucial lesson for us as parents. The Exodus from Egypt marked the first step in the creation of Am Yisrael as a nation. God wanted Bnei Yisrael, davka on the eve of their creation as a nation, to retreat into their homes and share a family meal. By doing so, Hashem delivered a critical message to the fledgling nation: “As you prepare to embark upon your journey of becoming a nation, take one moment to recognize and appreciate the important role that the family unit will play within this nation. The single most important educational unit in the Jewish nation will be the Jewish home, the Jewish family—and our nation will only be as strong as the families of which it is made up. Before we become a nation, we need to be a family. So, this final evening before your nation’s birth, spend these valuable moments with your family, strengthening those bonds that connect you—so that ultimately we will become a stronger nation as well.”

As parents, we sometimes fail to recognize the important role that our homes, and that we as parents, play in the educational and religious development of our children. We often look to our schools and shuls to shoulder the responsibility of inspiring our children to grow religiously and educationally. It is imperative that we realize that the Jewish home that we create, and the Jewish life and observance we model, will go much farther in shaping our children’s religious observance and beliefs than anything they learn in school or shul. Only the Jewish home can create the ideal environment for passing on the Jewish tradition meaningfully. If we successfully create a home that values Torah and mitzvot, and that encourages growth and passion for Judaism in a meaningful way, then our children will learn most from what we do and who we are. It all begins in the home.

With this idea in mind, we can understand one more beautiful idea emerging from the details of the Korban Pesach that Am Yisrael brought the night before they left Egypt. We mentioned earlier that the Korban Pesach was an anomaly, as it didn’t have the defining details of a typical korban; it was missing the sprinkling of the blood on the altar that was a requirement of all korbanot. The Gemara Pesachim 96, however, suggests that really there was “sprinkling of the blood” for this Korban Pesach as well: the sprinkling took place on the doorposts and lintel of each Jewish home. For this unique korban, every Jewish home was transformed into an altar, a mizbeach. On this night, the evening dedicated to strengthening the Jewish family unit and recognizing its importance, each Jewish home was elevated, through the Korban Pesach, to the level of a mizbeach—achieving a level of sanctity and holiness normally reserved for the Mishkan and the Beit Hamikdash.

When we remember our responsibility as parents and recognize the foundational role that our home plays within the development and continuity of our nation, we have the potential to elevate ourselves and our home to the highest levels of kedusha.

Shabbat shalom!


Rav Yossi Goldin is the menahel tichon at Yeshivas Pe’er HaTorah, rebbe at Midreshet Tehilla, and placement adviser/internship coordinator for the YU/RIETS Kollel. He lives with his family in Shaalvim and can be reached at [email protected].

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