Rabbi Shlomo Sobol
Former Rosh Kollel in Detroit
In Parshat Bo, Hashem commands Bnei Yisrael to get ready to leave Egypt by preparing the korban Pesach. Specifically, they are ordered to smear the korban’s blood on their lintels and doorposts. When Hashem explains the purpose of this act, we encounter a seemingly difficult pasuk:
“And the blood will be a sign for you upon the houses where you are, and I will see the blood and skip over you; and there will not be a plague among you, to destroy, when I smite in the land of Egypt.” (Shmot 12:13)
We will focus on two apparent difficulties in this pasuk. Our first question is syntactical. The pasuk implies that the blood’s purpose is to distinguish between Yisrael and Egypt. When the mashchit (the destructive force) is unleashed to smite the Egyptian firstborns, the blood will indicate which are batei Yisrael (the Israelite homes) and should therefore not be harmed. Thus, the blood is actually a sign for Hashem to use to differentiate between the two populations. So, why does the pasuk refer to the blood as “a sign for you”?
Our second question pertains to the pasuk’s content. Would it not have been more appropriate to select a more pleasant sign than blood for batei Yisrael? Perhaps candlelight, a flower, or something along those lines would have been more congenial?
Rashi addresses our first question and cites R’ Yishmael in the Mechilta:
“’A sign for you’ but not a sign for others. From here, [it is derived] that they only put the blood on the inside [of the house].”
Hashem can see both the house’s interior and exterior, and hence, the blood really is for Bnei Yisrael rather than for the Egyptians or for the mashchit.
Thus, the syntactical difficulty has been resolved. But what about our second question? Why must Hashem “see the blood” specifically, and what is the significance of blood as a sign for Bnei Yisrael?
R’ Yishmael (Mechilta – Bo 11) clarifies this issue as well:
“He sees the blood of Yitzchak’s Akeidah (literally, binding), as it says, ‘And Avraham named that place, Hashem Yireh (“Hashem will see”).’ (Breishit 22:14)”
Blood was specifically used during Yetziat Mitzrayim, because blood alludes to Akeidat Yitzchak. And when Bnei Yisrael and HaKadosh Baruch Hu both see the blood of Akeidat Yitzchak, they understand that this is an important part of the redemption process.
This idea contains a crucial and painful message, which reverberated through the generations, down to the Akeidot of our own time. Judaism forbids human sacrifice, but the demands made upon a Jew are no less vital. In fact, a Jew is obligated to recognize that his entire life comes from HaKadosh Baruch Hu and that his entire goal in this world is to serve Him. A Jew’s life is an unremitting sacrifice; he must bend his will, thoughts, behavior, property, and lifestyle to Divine Edict. Upon occasion, a Jew must even be willing to sacrifice his life – when there is no other alternative – but this is a momentary, radical expression, which reveals the deeper meaning of life itself:
“For all is from You, and from Your hand we have given to You” (Divrei HaYamim I 29:14)
Akeidat Yitzchak represents a Jew’s recognition and decision to give everything for HaKadosh Baruch Hu – including that which is most precious. This blood – this sign – is the required message of the korban’s blood, which marks batei Yisrael. We wish that the world could be rectified using only candles and flowers. Unfortunately, however, even during the original geulah (redemption), HaKadosh Baruch Hu shows us that our mission is weighty, difficult, and exceedingly painful: “The blood will be a sign for you.”
We beseech HaKadosh Baruch Hu to have mercy on us, in merit of the Akeidot that we continue to suffer, even in our own time. May we be privileged to see the fulfillment of the Navi’s words:
“For He has mangled and He shall heal us; He smites, and He will bandage us. He will revive us after two days; on the third day He will set us up, and we will live before Him.” (Hoshea 6:1-2)