“This day is to be a memorial for you. You are to keep it as a feast to the L-RD. Throughout your generations you are to keep it as an eternal ordinance.” – Exodus 12:14
Moshe explained in careful detail to B’nei Yisrael, what was to occur on their last night in Egypt (Mitzraim). Each family was to take a lamb on the tenth of Nissan, and keep it until the fourteenth of Nissan, when it would slaughtered. They were to take the blood of the lamb, “and strike it upon the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses, wherein they shall eat it” (Exodus 12:7). “The blood will serve you as a sign marking the houses where you are; when I see the blood, I will pass over [Hebrew: pasach] you when I strike the land of Egypt, the death blow will not strike you” (Exodus 12:13, Complete Jewish Bible).
The commandment to commemorate this event in the future was given before it occurred. This is the surety of H’Shem’s faithfulness. He commanded the Children of Israel to trust in Him, to the extent of protecting themselves from the Angel of Death, by following the one-time commandment, to take the blood of the Pesach lamb, and place it upon their doorways. This was an act of emunah (faith), and the commandment given to commemorate this event in the future, to remember (zikaron) their impending redemption, served as an assurance that all would proceed, according to H’Shem’s will.
Imagine being told that what will occur on a certain day would not only bring freedom from slavery; additionally, that event has already been placed on the calendar every year, so that future generations will commemorate that day. Yet, while still in Egypt, B’nei Yisrael was at risk of being further subjagated to the yetzer hara (evil inclination), especially because of the idolatrous ways that had negatively impacted their lives.
While in bondage in Mitzraim, the B’nei Yisrael had sunk to a low level of impurity, having neglected to distance themselves from the surrounding environment of idolatry. The Midrash records that when about to cross through the Sea of Reeds, the angels questioned their merit, saying both these and those, i.e., the Children of Israel and the Egyptians, were both idol worshippers. Why should these be spared, and the others not? Yet, H’Shem honored the covenant that he made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in order to bring His newly acquired nation out of bondage, and into covenant relationship with Him through Torah.
H’Shem brought us out of Egypt, to Mount Sinai, where He gave us the Torah. He had said to Moses, “This shall be the token unto thee, that I have sent thee: when thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve G-d upon this mountain” (Exodus 3:12, JPS 1917 Tanach). The revelation of Mount Sinai was the pinnacle of the redemption. Why? “The tables were the work of G-d, and the writing was the writing of G-d, graven upon the tables” (Exodus 32:16, JPS).
The Hebrew word for engrave is charut. The Sages note that the word cherut, freedom is from the same shoresh (root word). This implies that our freedom is derived through Torah. B’nei Yisrael was enslaved to sin in Egypt, having assimilated, to some degree, to the immorality of Egypt at that time. Although freed from slavery in Egypt, we were still slaves to sin; so, H’Shem gave us the Torah to free us from bondage to the yetzer harah (evil inclination).
One thought on “An Eternal Ordinance”