Rabbi Dovid Saks
Passover 5772 Reliving the Experience
During the recitation of the Hagaddah at the Passover Seder, we come across a remarkable description of the slaying of the firstborn, which was the final plague.
The Hagadah quotes verses from the Torah regarding the plague and then explains. “And I (G-d) passed through the Land of Egypt on this night.” - It was I (G-d) and not an angel. “I smote the firstborn.” - It was I (G-d) and not a Seraph (a different type of angel.) “And all the Egyptian gods and idols I eradicated.” - It was I and not a messenger.
The climatic event of the slaying of the firstborn was clearly unique because G-d Himself performed the plague.
My father, while conducting the Seder asks: Generally speaking, a king does not enter the battlefield; he sends his generals, officers and soldiers to conduct the combat and warfare while he stays back in his strategy room in a secure and secret site. In fact it is a sign of weakness for a king to go out to battle. Why is it praiseworthy that G-d alone slew the firstborn?
He would quote Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum o.b.m. who explained that during the plague of the firstborn, the Revelation of G-d was so great that G-d opened up the Heavens, displaying all His angels, Seraphim and Heavenly messengers. He pointed to each of them and said, “Look I have an entire arsenal of messengers and emissaries to do this job for Me, yet I want to do it Myself to show how dear the Jewish people are to Me. I will pass over and spare the Jewish firstborn and give the Egyptians their due punishment.”
The Chasam Sofer says that the fact that G-d performed the plague Himself has ramifications regarding the laws of the redemption of the first son born to a Jew.
Generally speaking, the Halacha – Jewish law states that one can appoint someone to do a Mitzvah on his behalf. For example, one may hire a Mohel to circumcise one’s son. However, regarding the redemption of one’s firstborn son, a father cannot appoint a messenger to redeem his son for him.
The Chasam Sofer explains: Since it was G-d Himself who slew the Egyptian firstborn and spared the Jewish firstborn, and He did not give it to a messenger, therefore the Mitzvah of redemption of a firstborn which was given to commemorate this miracle can only be done by the father himself and cannot be done through the means of a third party.
What needs clarification is: Why was it so important for G-d Himself to eradicate the Egyptian idols and gods during the final plague?
Ramban explains that the idolatrous gods that G-d obliterated during the plague were the troublesome angels that controlled the gods and idols of the Egyptians.
Rabbi Yonoson Eibeshets o.b.m. explains that the idols were so impure that G-d felt that if He would send good angels they would become contaminated by the idols. Therefore only G-d Himself could enter Egypt and eradicate the idols and their sources of impurity.
The Jews were forbidden to leave their homes while this impurity was manifest. During this time they were involved with the preparation, roasting and consumption of the Pascal lamb. The holy environment and the commands they observed, separated and detached them from the ill effects of the Egyptian decadence.
The Torah calls the Seder night “Leil Shimurim” - The night G-d watches and protects us in each generation.
Towards the conclusion of the Seder, we open the doors of our homes displaying our belief in this protection.
There are so many distractions in the world we live in. If we focus on our uninterrupted chain of 3324 years of history from our exodus from Egypt then our belief in G-d becomes strengthened, and our feelings of unity with our people increase. The connection with our parents, children, siblings, relatives and friends at the Seder becomes reinforced through meaningful discussions that develop