After failing to overcome Paroah’s inhuman obstinacy, God turns to a sensational display of power in the form of Makkat Bechorot, the plague of the first-born. In conjunction with God’s warning, Bnei Yisrael are commanded to bring a Korban Pesach. Uniquely, this Korban is singled out as a Mitzvah given to edify future generations, as the Pasuk states, “VeHayah Ki Yomeru Aleichem Beneichem Mah HaAvodah HaZot Lachem VaAmartem Zevech Pesach Hu LaHashem Asheir Pasach Al Batei Bnei Yisrael BeMitzrayim BeNagpo Et Mitzrayim VeEt Bateinu Hitzil,” “And it will be when your children ask you, ‘What is this service to you?’ you will say ‘It is a Pesach offering to Hashem who passed over the houses of Bnei Yisrael in Egypt when he killed the Egyptians’” (Shemot 12:26-27). However, why is the Korban Pesach the only Korban to be singled out as a lesson for future generations? Moreover, the imperative to remember Yetziat Mitzrayim, while important, is fulfilled via other Mitzvot, such as eating Matzah and reciting Shema. As such, it is seemingly superfluous to tie its remembrance to the Mitzvah of Korban Pesach.
Perhaps, this unique and puzzling attribute of the Korban Pesach can be explained in relation to another trait exclusive to the Korban Pesach. Two classifications exist within Korbanot; those that are brought on behalf of the congregation as whole, such as holiday sacrifices that commemorate community-wide events, and those that are brought by each individual, such as sin-offerings. Uniquely, the Korban Pesach has attributes of both classifications. While the Korban commemorates a community-wide event like that of other holidays, each and every individual in Am Yisrael offers it. This oddity reflects upon the nature of the Korban. While it is a community endeavor, the Korban is also comprised of individual offerings. While each and every member of Bnei Yisrael is an individual with unique capabilities and contributions, it is essential to be united as a nation. Achdut, a sense of unity, is a defining trait of Am Yisrael. While individuality is seemingly antithetical to a sense of unity, it should serve to further our Achdut, not inhibit it. Each and every member should offer his unique abilities and contributions to further Am Yisrael as a whole.
Thus, it becomes clear as to why Bnei Yisrael are commanded to recount specifically the Korban Pesach and its message to future generations. For future generations to survive amidst the daily trials and struggles of exile, it is essential to internalize this message of unity. While Bnei Yisrael are scattered, be it between Israel and Bavel or the United States and Australia, it is essential to retain this sense of Achdut and unity. Only after Bnei Yisrael internalize this message can Yetziat Mitzrayim be brought about. To leave Egypt, become a nation, and conquer a country, Bnei Yisrael need to be inspired with undying unity.
This message of the Korban Pesach serves to answer another question that arises regarding the Korban. Hashem tells Moshe, “VeHayah HaDam Lachem LeOt Al HaBatim Asheir Atem Sham VeRaiti Et HaDam UFasachti Aleichem,” “And the blood shall be a sign on your houses that you [Bnei Yisrael] are there, and I will see the blood and pass over you” (Shemot 12:13). While well known, this passage seems puzzling. Why does God need a sign to know over which houses to skip? Surely the omnipotent and omniscient Almighty knows which house is Jewish and which house is Egyptian. To understand this difficulty, one must look upon the previously explained meaning behind the Korban Pesach. Hashem says that the blood will serve as an Ot, a sign, that a house should be skipped over. The blood does not serve as a sign that the household is Jewish, rather, a sign that it should be skipped over during Makkat Bechorot. The question is not whether or not the household is Jewish; it is whether it warrants immunity from Makkat Bechorot, and ultimately, the right to leave Mitzrayim. Only households that partake in the Korban, and illustrate their dedication towards Achdut may leave Mitzrayim as part of Bnei Yisrael. To be a part of the nation, one must be a “team player.” As such, God is saying that the blood of the Korban will serve as a sign that the household is a part of Bnei Yisrael and engaged in the sense of unity that such a relationship entails.
Upon closer inspection of the Pesukim, this idea becomes clear. The Pasuk detailing the Mitzvah to inform future generations of the Korban uses choice wording. Instead of being a commemoration of Yetziat Mitzrayim, the Pesukim describe the Korban Pesach as an offering for Hashem, for he passed over Bnei Yisrael’s homes while killing the Mitzrim. At its essence, the Korban Pesach is not merely a remembrance of the exodus from Egypt; that is accomplished through other Mitzvot. Rather, the Korban serves as a remembrance of the Achdut we displayed in Mitzrayim. It serves to remind us that, while the Mitzrim around us merited death, we managed to retain our Achdut in the face of potential assimilation, and thereby, merit salvation.
After generations of living amongst the Egyptians, it would have been understandable for Bnei Yisrael to begin to assimilate and associate themselves with Egyptian culture. However, it is only those members of Bnei Yisrael who retain their Jewish identity and sense of Achdut that warrant salvation and exodus. This message is essential to those living in exile today. While we may be in Chutz LaAretz, far from Israel and our Jewish brethren, we must always retain our Jewish identity and sense of unity. As long as we harbor and breed a feeling of Achdut, we will remain one unified nation. However, if we let the barrage of secular influence penetrate our being, we will lose our roles as members of Bnei Yisrael. This message is essential for Bnei Yisrael during Galut Mitzrayim, and it remains essential today. Fortunately, many of us live in Jewish communities in which it is easy to maintain a sense of Judaism. However, the Jews in Mitzrayim are similarly sequestered in Goshen and yet, they still need to pass this divine test to prove their unity and worthiness to be saved. We must recognize that being Jewish is more than merely living in a Jewish community and sending our children to Jewish schools. To be members of Am Yisrael, we must actively engage in a “Korban Pesach” and show where our affiliations lie. It is only through living a life defined and embodied by Achdut that we can earn the right to define ourselves as members of Bnei Yisrael, and ultimately, to leave exile and return to Eretz Yisrael.