Sometimes, when you read the weekly Torah portion, you read about a certain mitzva we have and think ‘what?!’
In this week’s parsha, Bo, we find a couple of mitzvot just like that. We are given the commandment of the Korban Pesach, the Passover Sacrifice, which is a sheep that we used to sacrifice in the Temple every year, and then eat for dinner at the Seder, every Pesach until the Temple was destroyed. This makes a lot of sense. The Korban Pesach is a remembrance of the miracle Hashem did for us in Egypt, when all of the Egyptian families where hit
with the 10th of the 10 plagues, the Death of the Firstborn, but the Jewish families were left untouched.
As a condition for being left untouched by the horrible plague, all the Jewish families were told then to sacrifice a sheep to Hashem and mark their doorposts with the sheep’s blood as a sign of their commitment to Hashem. (The Egyptians worshipped sheep – so obviously it took a lot of trust in Hashem to risk angering them by killing their god!)
As a remembrance of that miracle, we bring the Passover Sacrifice every year just as they did then. That seems very logical. But what seems strange is that there are other mitzvot thrown in to the whole Passover Sacrifice procedure. For instance, we are told not to break any of the bones of the sacrifice that we bring. Even after we’ve already eaten it. Why not? What’s the big deal with breaking it’s bones?
Sefer Chinuch, (Book of Education) is a fantastic book that goes through all the mitzvot in the Torah and explains the deeper meaning behind them. It explains that the reason behind not breaking the bones of our sacrifice on Pesach is to remind ourselves again of the miracles that Hashem did for us in Egypt and that He raised us to new levels of greatness when we left Egypt. When dogs eat they eat like savages and break the bones of their food in a rush to glean every last scrap of meat. But when Hashem did these miracles for us in Egypt He appointed us as kings and queens, princes and princesses, and we remind ourselves of that by eating like them every year at the same time of our ‘appointment’.
We see here not only a beautiful deeper understanding of this seemingly strange mitzva, but that the Torah gave us a number of different reminders to remind us of the miracles He performed for us in Egypt. Sometimes we think that we don’t need the mitzvot – we believe in Hashem in our hearts and minds! Why do we need to actually bring a sacrifice, and not break the bones of it in order to remind ourselves of our beliefs? We can remember without them!
We see that Hashem doesn’t agree. He understands that a person is affected most in life by the actions they do. The greatest and purist person, given an immoral job and placed in an immoral environment, will inevitably be influenced and lose his greatness and purity to some degree. Hashem gives us many many mitzvot and many reminders, in order to help us achieve greatness, because it is through our actions, specifically, that we can really come to internalize what we already believe in.
So in this mitzva of the Pesach Sacrifice we can actually learn something that applies to the entire Torah: Why did Hashem give us practical mitzvot instead of just telling us to memorize what we believe in?
Because only through the mitzvot can we internalize those beliefs until they become a part of our very being.