by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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The Torah reading for the first day of Pesach is Exodus 12:21-51.
The laws of the Pesach offering are discussed, among them, the law that a non- Jew may not partake of this offering. We find the following verse:
And when a stranger (“ger” convert) will dwell with you and he shall make the Pesach offering for Hashem, each of his males should be circumcised then he may come near to make it and he shall be like the native of the land; no uncircumcised may eat of it.
And make the Pesach offering : RASHI: I might have thought than every convert should have to make a Pesach offering immediately (after conversion) , so the verse teaches us “and he shall be like the native of the land “ just as the native brings the Pesach offering on the 14th of Nisan so too the convert is to bring it on the 14th of the month.
What Is Rashi Saying?
Rashi says that the phrasing of this verse would lead us to think that any convert should be obligated to make a Pesach offering right after he converts, this being perhaps his first Jewish act after his conversion.
But this is certainly strange. Why would we ever draw such a conclusion? The Pesach offering is directly related to the events of Pesach, the redemption from Egypt and the years of slavery, which is celebrated on the 14th of Nisan. What sense would it make for the convert to bring this offering in June or January? In Tamuz or Taivas?
What Is Bothering Rashi?
The mistaken assumption that the convert must immediately bring a Pesach offering does, in fact, seem to be the implication of our verse. It does say:
“And when a stranger (“ger” convert)….and he shall make the Pesach offering…”
Never the less it would seem to go against all logic. How can this be understood?
Understanding this point will give us a deeper appreciation into the Pesach offering itself.
Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky zt”l points out that there is an inherent relationship between rejecting idol worship (i.e. becoming a convert) and offering the Pesach sacrifice. The Torah says (12:21) “Draw and take a sheep” etc. which Rashi (on verse 12:6) interprets to mean “Draw yourself away from idolatry and [then] take a sheep [for the Pesach offering].”
Rabbi Kamenetsky zt”l, makes a brilliant point. He shows how we find several times in Jewish history that when the Jews did T’shuva and distanced themselves from idol worship, they brought a Pesach offering. In the days of King Hezekiah (Chronicles II ch 30:1) in the days of King Yosheyahu (Chronicles II ch.35:1) and in the days of Ezra (Ezra 6:19), all indicate that when idol worship was rejected by the people one of the first acts done by them was to offer the Pesach sacrifice. These were events which occurred on a national scale, but one could also think, says Rabbi Kamenetsky, that when an individual abandons idol worship and converts to Judaism, he too should bring a Pesach offering. Therefore the Torah adds the phrase “and he shall be like the native of the land” to teach us that the convert brings his Pesach offering, not when he converts, but when every other Jew (“native of the land”) does – on the 14th of Nisan.
A Deeper Look
But we should ask: What connection is there between this Pesach sacrifice and the Jew’s rejection of idol worship ?
An Answer: We should recall several aspects of the first Pesach offering that was performed by the Jews in Egypt, just hours before their delivery from Egypt.
So we see that the purpose of the original Pesach offering was to express, in action, the Jew’s rejection of idol worship. It certainly is a fitting act for one who leaves the pagan world view and joins the People of Israel.
May our celebration of this year’s Pesach help us free ourselves from the many foreign idols that we, albeit inadvertently, bow down to and sacrifice so much for.
Last Day(s) of Pesach 5763
“And Hashem said to Moses ‘Why do you cry out to Me. Speak to the Children of Israel and let them move on.’ ”
To the Children of Israel and let them move on: RASHI: The have nothing to do but to move forward. For the sea will not stand in their way. The merits of the Forefathers and the faith they had in Me when they went out [of Egypt] – it is sufficient to split the sea for them.
Some Questions: Why the need for this comment? The verse says “let them move on” what does Rashi mean “they have nothing to do but to move on” ? And why does he mention the merits of the Forefathers here?
What’s bothering Rashi here?
Hint: Look at this verse and the next one.
What Is Bothering Rashi?
An Answer: Verses 15 and 16 seem to be out of order. Verse 16 says that Moshe is to raise his hand over the sea and it will split. It would seem logical for this verse to come first. First Moses should raise his hand and split the sea then tell the Children of Israel to cross it. Rashi is relating to this difficulty.
How does his comment deal with it?
An Answer: Rashi tells us an important lesson is faith and miracles. The Jews’ faith was what split the sea, not Moses’ magical waiving of the staff. “They have nothing to do but to move forward.” This means they need not wait for a miracle, their act of moving forward towards the threatening sea, which implies a faith in G-d’s ability to save them, is sufficient to have the sea split for them. Moses’ raising his staff was but a symbolic act ( perhaps like Babe Ruth’s raising his bat towards the stadium!?) to indicate that the sea would be split. But the cause of its splitting was the Jews’ ability to rush towards the raging sea with faith in G-d.
A Deeper Look
We are left with the question: Why does Rashi mention the “merits of the Forefathers” ? Where is this even hinted at in the verse?
Can you see any hint of this?
Hint: Look at Rashi’s Dibbur Hamaschil (Lead words).
A Deeper Understanding
An Answer: Rashi’s Dibbur Hamaschil begins with “to the Children of Israel.” This seems irrelevant to Rashi’s main point – that they should move on towards the sea, even before Moses raised his staff. Perhaps it is these words that are the basis for his reference to the “merits of the Fathers.” Verse 13 above refers to the people as “the People.” Our verse could have said “speak to the people” or just “speak to them.” Why mention “the Children of Israel” ( Rashi implicitly asks )?
Rashi’s answer is that being the Children of Israel (i.e. Jacob – and Isaac and Abraham) is their special merit. This merit will stand by them in this time of stress. G-d’s promise to the Fathers that He will redeem their children is sufficient (with the children’s act of faith, of course) to deliver them from danger at this time.
There is an important lesson in Jewish faith contained in this Rashi-comment. Miracles happen to the faithful because of their faith, not because of any unrelated magical Divine intervention. Acts of faith (like the Jews’ moving forward towards the threatening sea) AND merits of the Fathers are the essential ingredients for supernatural Divine intervention. I would say that the merits of the Fathers are also essential so that one should never think that he alone (even with pure faith) can determine events.
Email: Rabbibonchek@netzero.net “What’s Bothering Rashi?” is a product of the non-profit “Institute for the Study of Rashi and the Early Torah Commentaries.”
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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