Israel Forever

For the week ending 3 April 2004 / 12 Nisan 5764

Getting Out of Egypt Getting Egypt Out of Us

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

The Shabbat just before Pesach, the Festival of our Freedom from Egyptian bondage, is called Shabbat Hagadol the Great Shabbat. Its greatness is that it recalls the great miracle which took place for our ancestors in Egypt on the Shabbat preceding the Exodus.

Jews were commanded by G-d to take a sheep on that day and set it aside for slaughtering as a sacrifice four days later. Their Egyptian neighbors were shocked at the sight of animals they worshipped being chained to beds in Jewish homes, and were even more upset when informed that this was in preparation for their being slaughtered. Heavenly intervention which prevented this anger from exploding into violence was a great miracle to be recalled on every "Great Shabbat".

But why was it necessary for such action on the part of our ancestors before their liberation?

The answer lies in the wording of the command to "draw forth or purchase for yourselves one of the flock for your families and slaughter it as a Pesach sacrifice" (Shmot 12:21). "Draw forth" is interpreted by our Talmudic Sages as a command to "draw away" from the idolatry of the Egyptians. Jews had been seriously influenced by the culture and beliefs of their Egyptian taskmasters and neighbors. It was therefore not sufficient to take Jews out of Egypt. It was absolutely necessary to take Egypt out of the Jews!

This could only be achieved by insisting on Jews courageously taking the very personification of Egyptian culture and sacrificing it to G-d. This should serve as a reminder in our own times to divest ourselves of all the corrupt elements of secular "culture" and thus be worthy of miracles like that of the "Great Shabbat" which will preserve Israel forever.

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