Low-Growing Grass, Far-Reaching Messages by Moshe Kollmar


This week’s Maftir, Parashat HaChodesh, is an introduction to the laws of the Korban Pesach. One of the Halachot pertaining specifically to the original Korban Pesach is that its blood is smeared upon the doorframe. The Pasuk states, “VeLakechu Min HaDam VeNatenu Al Shetei HaMezuzot VeAl HaMashkof,” “They shall take some of the blood and place it on the two doorposts and on the lintel” (Shemot 12:7). Later, in the Pesukim immediately after this week’s Maftir ends, when Moshe relays Hashem’s command to Bnei Yisrael, he changes this line to “ULkachtem Agudat Eizov UTvaltem BaDam Asher BaSaf VeHigatem El HaMashkof VeEl Shetei HaMezuzot Min HaDam,” “You shall take a bundle of Eizov and dip it into the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with some of the blood” (Shemot 12:22). Why does Hashem, in His initial command to Moshe, not mention that Agudat Eizov should be used to apply the blood? Additionally, why does Moshe change the order of the parts of the doorframe by mentioning the lintel first?

Throughout the Torah, the Eizov, a plant which the Rishonim debate how to translate, is mentioned only eight times, once in the context of the Korban Pesach and seven times serving as a purifying agent (VaYikra 14:4, 14:6, 14:49, 14:51, and 14:52; BeMidbar 19:6 and 19:18). Why is this purifying agent (whose role is further highlighted in Tehillim 51:9) relevant to the Korban Pesach? If this plant is relevant to Korban Pesach, why is it used only in the original Korban Pesach but not in the annual ritual?

The Avnei Neizer, Rav Avraham Bornzstain from Sochaczew, explains that Eizov appears in the first Korban Pesach ritual because at that point in history, Bnei Yisrael had no Zechuyot whatsoever. Eizov, a low-growing grass, is used by Chazal as a symbol of humility and submission. In order to attain purification, one must first humble oneself and perform Teshuvah. Bnei Yisrael, too, are instructed to take this humility resulting from years of servitude under Egyptian rule and use it to serve Hashem. Therefore, they take this Eizov, dip it in blood, and use it to paint their doorframes. By doing so, they declare that they now serve only Hashem. The message is displayed prominently for all to see. In future generations, however, Bnei Yisrael have already received the Torah and no longer have this attribute of true humility. Thus, they are no longer capable of making such a statement from the depths of their hearts. The Eizov is therefore abandoned.

If this declaration is so important, why isn’t it recorded in Hashem’s command? The Tzeror HaMor, written by Rav Avraham Saba, records an answer he heard from an unspecified individual. He explains that Hashem is sending a message to Bnei Yisrael that they have no merits whatsoever aside from the merits of their leaders, Moshe and Aharon, who are represented by the two doorposts. Only the Chesed of Hashem, represented by the lintel, allows them to leave the enslavement of Mitzrayim based on the merits of only two individuals. Hashem, out of humility, records Himself last. However, when Moshe relays the message to Bnei Yisrael, he changes the order of the doorposts and the lintel out of his own humility and to defend the honor of Hashem. Furthermore, in this statement, by mentioning the Agudat Eizov, Moshe reminds Hashem that Bnei Yisrael have the merit of their own baseness and humility, with which they are willing to serve Hashem. Thus, Moshe argues that Bnei Yisrael deserve to be redeemed in their own right, even without the merits of the two doorposts.

Before a Metzora undergoes the purification process, he first must repent in isolation, away from the grandeur of society, as this week’s Parashah describes. After reaching total baseness, he recognizes that his purpose of existence is to serve a higher power. This rumination is reminiscent of the mindset of Bnei Yisrael in Mitzrayim, who, after being enslaved for generations, live only to serve. The individual afflicted with Tzara’at must then, as next week’s Parashah explains, bring two birds to a Kohein, who slaughters one and dips the other with Eizov (as well as wood and a string) into the blood of the first bird. Again, this is similar to Bnei Yisrael’s having no merits of their own other than their humility and willingness to serve Hashem. Nonetheless, this humility was enough to allow them to leave Mitzrayim.

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