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Pesach 5783 Shorts

Jewish Mazal

On the 14th of the month of Nissan, on the day before Passover, we are commanded to bring a special communal/personal sacrifice, known as the Paschal sacrifice. This sacrifice was first brought by the Jewish people, just before they left Egypt. They were also commanded to mark their doors with blood taken from the Paschal sacrifice in order to distinguish between them and their Egyptian enslavers. Furthermore, despite the lamb being an Egyptian object of worship, the paschal sacrifice was required to be exactly that. Thus, the Paschal sacrifice became a symbol for the separation between the Jewish people and the Egyptians.

The value of “Paschal sacrifice” (קָרְבָּן פֶּסַח) is 500. The 500th word in the Torah is ayin (אַיִן) in the verse, “And no man was present to till the land”[1] (וְאָדָם אַיִן לַעֲבֹד אֶת הָאֲדָמָה). The word ayin (אַיִן) in the verse, indicates a negation. Multiplying the letters of ayin (אַיִן) by one another—א or 1, multiplied by י, or 10, multiplied by ן, or 50—we find that their product is 500 too. The word ayin appears in the Talmudic statement, “Israel have no mazal[2] (אֵין מַזָּל לְיִשְׂרָאֵל), which the Ba’al Shem Tov taught can mean that that “which cannot be grasped” (אַיִן) is the mazal of the Jewish people, whereas the nations of the world each have an actual mazal, a constellation of stars, or the spiritual powers that drive those stars, that governs them. Both the Paschal sacrifice and that which cannot be grasped—the ayin—represent the uniqueness of the Jewish people.



Blood that Gives Life

The prophet Ezekiel says, “When I passed over you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you, ‘Live thanks to your blood’”[3] (וָאֶעֱבֹר עָלַיִךְ וָאֶרְאֵךְ מִתְבּוֹסֶסֶת בְּדָמָיִךְ וָאֹמַר לָךְ בְּדָמַיִךְ חֲיִי). The sages say that this verse refers to when God “passed over” the Jewish people in Egypt, and thus the blood that gives life that the prophet is referring to is both the blood of the Paschal lamb and the blood of the circumcision, which many Jews had at that time. The Hebrew word for “blood” (דָּם) is related to the word for “imagination” (דִּמְיוֹן). While enslaved in Egypt, we were also enslaved by the false imagination impressed upon us. We were freed from that by the blood of the Paschal lamb and the blood of circumcision.

Why the need for both? There are two types of false imagination, one that leads to idolatry and one that causes promiscuity and adultery, as we say in the Shema, “Do not follow your heart and your eyes”[4] (וְלֹא תָתֻרוּ אַחֲרֵי לְבַבְכֶם וְאַחֲרֵי עֵינֵיכֶם). The blood of the Paschal lamb freed us from the false imagination that leads to idolatry; the blood of circumcision freed us from the imagination that causes promiscuity and adultery.

[1]. Genesis 2:5.

[2]. Shabbat 156b.

[3]. Ezekiel 16:6.

[4]. Deuteronomy 15:39.

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