Shabbat schedule - Friday - Shabbat, January 15 - 16, 2016

***Thank you to last week's Kiddush sponosrs***

Torah Reading: Bo (Exodus 10:1 - 13:16) 
Haftorah: Jeremiah 46:13-28

Shabbat Candle Lighting: 4:34 PM 
Shabbat ends: 5:38 PM

Halachic Times 
Earliest Tefillin (latest of the week): 6:25 AM
Latest Shma (earliest of the week): 9:37 AM



Two Commandments: Singular and Plural

This week’s parsha highlights the Exodus from Egypt and the commandments the Jews were given prior to their departure.

The main commandment concerned the Korban Pesach, the Paschal Offering. This offering involved sacrificing a lamb on the day before their departure—the fourteenth of Nissan—and to eat the meat of the Paschal lamb that night.

Two of the commandments associated with this offering were: a) to eat it in their homes and not take any of it outside and b) not to break any bones of the meat of the Paschal offering.

However, as commentators point out, there is an inconsistency in the way these two commands are written. With regard to taking the meat out of the house the Torah uses the singular verb form, whereas the plural form is used for the prohibition against breaking the bones of the offering. Commentators discuss various reasons for this anomaly.

Maharam Chagiz provides an ingenious explanation from the legal perspective. If one has violated the rule and taken the offering outside he has violated this Biblical requirement. If another person were then to take it out a second time there would be no additional violation. Once the meat has been removed it stays removed.

With respect to the prohibition of breaking the bones of the offering the law is different. Even after one person has broken a bone while eating the Paschal offering, anyone else who breaks the same bone is also guilty of the prohibition.

Hence, the Torah uses the singular verb form for taking the meat outside since only one person can be in violation of that law. The prohibition against breaking bones, by contrast, can be committed by multiple individuals. The Torah thus employs the plural form.

Every detail of Torah must provide us with some insight into our own lives in our own time. What is the message in the foregoing distinction between the two prohibitions? Why is it that once a person has taken the Paschal offering out of the house, the next person will not be in violation if he takes it out as well? And why is the prohibition against breaking the bones of the offering different?

To explain this anomaly we must first understand the underlying rationale for these two prohibitions.

Shabbos Parallel

The Talmud states that the law that forbids taking the meat of the Paschal offering outside is analogous to the law of not carrying an object out of the house on Shabbos. One of the 39 categories of work that the Torah forbids is carrying an object from a private domain to a public domain.

Chassidic thought understands the public domain as a place that allows for strife, pain and unrest. The public arena, literally and figuratively, is inundated with a plethora of conflicting ideas and beliefs.

The private domain, contrarily, enjoys privacy, unity and tranquility. Indeed, the entire concept of Shabbos as a day of rest is based on the capacity of Shabbos to bring tranquility into the otherwise conflicted, fragmented, chaotic and troubled world that is our weekday experience.

The prohibition against carrying outside, therefore, is designed to maintain a state of inner peace because it allows us to return to and be in touch with our primal and simple core. Shabbos disentangles us from the web of quotidian life.

However, as beautiful and tranquil as Shabbos is, it does not suffice. In addition to rest, peace and a return to our inner selves, we also need to be liberated. And this is what the Passover holiday—and particularly the Paschal offering—is all about.

Indeed, even Shabbos possesses a secondary theme of liberation. We can see that in the Kiddush prayer recited Fridaynight, where we make reference to Shabbos first as a remembrance of Creation, and then as a remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt.

What does liberation add to a person who already lives a blissful Shabbos life of serenity?

As peaceful and blissful as living in a private domain can be, we can still be locked in a virtual prison, constrained by the limits of our natural selves. The human spirit demands of us to go beyond our comfort zone and break out of the external conventions that are imposed on us as well as overcoming our self-imposed limits.

This is the spiritual parallel to the Passover offering. It is the imperative to “pass over” and transcend our own natural limits. Whereas Shabbos’s primary theme is going within to find our inner peace, the primary theme of Pesach — and the second theme of Shabbos — is self-transcendence.

But then the Torah makes what appears to be a counter intuitive statement: One must not take the Paschal lamb out of the house, just like on Shabbos.

The Paradox of Passover

How do we reconcile the idea of breaking out of boundaries with the idea of withdrawing into one’s home and inner sanctum? Either we are to stay within or to break out? How can we do both?

The answer is that even when we break out and transcend, we must do so within the limits of the Torah because they are Divine limits which are not really limits as we understand that term. We do not have to negate the inner sanctity of Shabbos to liberate ourselves. True liberation is where we find within ourselves the hidden powers that enable us to go beyond our potential, but they dare not conflict with G‑d’s commandments that are Divine and therefore liberating and not limiting. The only thing that is limiting is the way we approach the experience of the commandments.

Moreover, self-transcendence is not about becoming something we are not. It doesn’t require of us to cease being Shabbos Jews. It does not require of us to deny our selfhood and transform our identities. It does mean that we can dig deeper into our soul to discover heretofore untapped reservoirs of G‑dly energy which enable us to go beyond our previous potential.

Hence, the Torah compares the laws of not transporting the Paschal offering out of the private domain to the law of Shabbos. While Shabbos is about going within and Pesach is about breaking out, they can coexist. This teaches us that we are able to “break out” while yet remaining in our private domain.

Now we can understand why the Torah uses the singular to describe the law of not carrying the Paschal offering out of the private domain. Both Shabbos and Passover demand that we never leave the ideal of unity and singularity.

Don’t Break - Deny Your Essence

The Torah then continues to reinforce this idea with the command against breaking a bone of the Paschal offering.

The Hebrew word for bone – etzem — also means “essence.” The essence of the Jew must not be compromised in the effort to break out of our boundaries. There is a tendency for those who are blessed with a rebellious nature to deny their own identity. And, tragically, in our own day and age there have been many Jews who have rebelled against their own heritage and even denied their Jewish identity.

“Don’t break the bones of the Paschal offering” can now be understood as teaching that being a rebel does not mean to break and deny one’s essential identity!

More specifically, these twin admonitions address two perils for those who seek to be liberated:

First, the rebellious Jew may misdirect that positive energy and throw off the “shackles” of the Mitzvos, reasoning that free spirits do not need to be told how to micro-manage their lives. As protection against this mindset the Torah admonishes us to keep the Paschal lamb (read: the idea of liberation and breaking out of boundaries) in the home - the overarching structure of Judaism.

However, once a person has compromised a commandment in order to “free” his or her spirit, the next modification to that commandment cannot do any more harm. Once we have begun to corrupt the Mitzvah it is no longer G‑d’s commandment and no additional modification can further reduce its value. Thus, the Torah employs the singular to underscore that taking the Paschal offering out of the context of Jewish law is a singular offense.

Second, the rebellious Jew may also go so far as to deny his or her identity as a Jew. However, no matter how many times one may try to deny his or her essence it cannot change that essence. A Jew remains a Jew notwithstanding strident protests. Thus, every time someone denies his or her essential identity it constitutes a new violation.

Moshiach: A Shabbos and Pesach Jew

The message conveyed by these two commandments is especially relevant today as we focus on the imminent coming of Moshiach and the final Redemption he will usher in. There is a double misconception, however, that first Moshiach will change those laws of the Torah that can be viewed superficially as stifling and constraining and second that he will alter our essential identity so we will no longer be the persons we were in the past.

Nothing is further from the truth. Moshiach is the ultimate liberator because he possesses both qualities: He is both a Shabbos and a Passover personality. Moshiach is the source of inner tranquility and therefore he is eminently qualified to unite the Jewish people and usher in the future Era of Redemption—the Shabbos of history.

Moshiach also possesses the opposite quality of constantly breaking out of the structures that impose limits on him; always looking for new ways of transforming himself and the entire world.

Moshiach’s function is to combine these two paradoxical features. On the one hand we will feel the greatest sense of inner peace and delight in the Messianic Age and, simultaneously, we will be energized to break new ground. However, this liberating aspect of Moshiach will not compromise one iota of the Mitzvos. On the contrary, Maimonides asserts that Moshiach’s role is to make the Mitzvos complete and enhance their integrity.

In addition, Moshiach will not change who we are, even as he inspires us to break out of our limits. Rather he will reveal the hidden energies that we already possess that empower us to chart new courses enabling us to reach new heights and depths.

Moshiach Matters:

Our Sages explain that, in contrast to the other living beings which were created in pairs, man was created alone. Why? So that every individual should say, "The world was created for me," and thus appreciate that his conduct can affect the totality of existence. Thus the coming of the Redemption depends on every single individual. Simply put, were people to open their eyes, as said above, the door would open and Moshiach would enter.