Shabbat Parshat Bo - 5760
Upon the Two Doorposts and Upon the Lintel "Throughout the preceding nine plagues, the Jewish People were completely passive; the only active participants in the drama on the side of Israel being its G-d and Moshe and Aharon, Hashems designated representatives. However, on the eve of their Exodus from Egypt, they are commanded "Withdraw and take for yourselves" the lamb, the "god" of the Egyptians, to slaughter it, eat it with their families, and smear its blood on their door-posts and upon their lintels. What is the significance of these acts, how did they protect the Jewish People from the Tenth Plague, "Makat Bechorot," the Plague of the First-Born, and why were they necessary ingredients for Jewish salvation?
Among the opinions cited by Rav Yissachar Yaakovson, in "Binah BaMikra," regarding this question, are the following:
According to the Midrash Mechilta, the purpose was to raise the Jewish People to the level of true Teshuvah, as Rabbi Yosi HaGelili says regarding the verse, "Withdraw and take," "Withdraw from the idol worship to which you have become attached and cleave unto the Divine Commandments."
The fact that the Jewish People were involved in idol worship is clear from the Midrash which speaks of the angels complaining when Hashem is about to restore the Red Sea to full strength, thus drowning the Egyptians, "But these and those are idol worshippers!" It is also hinted at by the fact that only 20%, and thats the high value, of the Jews left Egypt, and made specific by Yechezkel when he berates the People for continuing to hold onto the idol worshipping practices of ancient Egypt.
Despite the fact that the normal reaction of the Egyptians to seeing the blood from their idol being smeared on doorposts could have been expected to have been deadly violence (imagine doing that in India even today to the cow) the Ktav VKabbalah writes, "Despite all of this, they chose to do the will of their Creator, and by this demonstrated a wondrous sign of full repentance."
The Abarbanel and the Akeidat Yitzchak both emphasize the public protest aspect, the demonstration and condemnation of the Egyptian Religion, which was expressed in "the blood of the sheep-god was crying out from every door and doorpost." Not only was the Jew raising himself above the level of idol worship, but he was shouting "False!" for all to hear, especially the Egyptians, to the religion and culture that had subdued his People for so long.
Rabbi S. R. Hirsch, with some nuances added by Dr. Nechama Leibowitz, focuses on the expression, "in one household shall it be eaten," whereby the Jews of Egypt were required to eat their Korban Pesach, and their descendants after them throughout the ages were required to celebrate their Sedarim, in the context of a family grouping. The living cell in Jewish life was always seen to be the family and the home. And just as the physical "bayit" is protected by its wall and ceiling from the elements and from physical pressure, so is the spiritual "bayit" protected from assimilation, by the Torah and its Mitzvot, as symbolized by the Mezuzah and the Mashkof.
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel
Rabbi Frankel is an Educational Coordinator at the OU