Shabbat Parashat Tazria | 5768
Pesach and Milah
It seems easy to find a connection between the parasha and the special “Hachodesh” maftir. The parasha mentions the mitzva of brit milah, which is closely related to the Korban Pesach (Pascal lamb), highlighted in the maftir. However, the maftir (Shemot 12: 1-20) does not mention the halacha that an arel (one who did not have a brit) cannot bring the korban, which is found in a later portion, two dozen p’sukim later (ibid. 12: 43-50). It is not only several p’sukim that separate them. Rashi points out that while our maftir occurred on the first day of Nisan, the need for brit milah before partaking in the Korban Pesach was taught on the 14th of Nisan. It doesn’t seem logical to wait to tell people to do a brit milah until they are busy with the final stages of pre-redemption, imminently followed by exodus. Using the two weeks’ time to have the milah and recuperate seems more sensible.
The way the midrash (Shemot Rabba 19:5) connects Korban Pesach and milah may clarify somewhat. The people were reluctant to perform milah but, according to the midrash’s first version, when they found out it was a prerequisite for taking part in the Korban Pesach, they became willing to do it. According to the second version, it was not until the preparations for the Korban Pesach began and the smell enticed them to beg to take part that Moshe was able to get them to perform milah.
That still does not explain why the connection between the two was not revealed earlier. The midrash mentions the significance of the intermingling of the blood of the milah and that of the Pesach. Thus, the fact that the milah was done at the last moment might have had some positive value.
However, it is likely that Hashem would have preferred for the people to fulfill their sacred obligation of milah well in advance without prodding. Indeed, the midrash praises the Tribe of Levi for having been careful about the matter throughout the years of servitude. Bnei Yisrael, in their downtrodden state, were not in the practice of performing any mitzvot. They had enough trouble following the commandments that Pharaoh imposed upon them. Why should they follow the practices their fathers related from a G-d who had allowed them to be in a wretched situation? Only when the final steps of redemption were palpable, represented by the Korban Pesach, were they willing to put in their bodies a sign of servitude to Hashem instead of to Pharaoh. According to the midrash’s second version, it was not even enough to know that this was to happen. Rather, they had to “smell in the air,” literally and figuratively, the festivity of freedom in order to do so.
Since ancient times, we have never forgotten the status of free men and the related obligation of milah that encourages us to give ourselves over to Hashem. May the stages of redemption and the “smell” of hopefully imminent further redemption encourage more of us to intensify our service of Hashem.
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of
R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld
Hemdat Yamim is endowed by Les & Ethel Sutker of
Max and Mary Sutker
and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.
May their memory be a blessing.