TalmuDigest

For the week ending 8 April 2006 / 10 Nisan 5766

Pesachim 79 - 85

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

  • How much of a sacrifice must remain ritually pure to allow its blood to be applied?
  • When the Pesach sacrifice can be offered despite ritual impurity of kohanim or of majority of the people
  • When the pure and impure are equal in number
  • When the tzitz (headplate of the kohen gadol) can nullify ritual impurity effect on sacrifice of Pesach and of the nazir
  • The special status of these two sacrifices regarding an uncertain state of impurity
  • When and where the flesh of a disqualified sacrifice was burned
  • Causing and eliminating shame and suspicion
  • Burning of the leftover bones of the Pesach sacrifice
  • What qualifies as edible part of Pesach sacrifice for the fulfillment of mitzvah to eat
  • The ban on breaking bones of Pesach sacrifice
  • How to deal with the limb of the sacrifice which became disqualified
  • What constitutes being in one area for eating the flesh of the sacrifice and for a quorum for prayer

From Slavery to Aristocracy

  • Pesachim 84a

If a Jew broke the bone of the Pesach sacrifice he was eating he was guilty of violating the Torah prohibition (Shmot 12:46) against doing so, and if he did this intentionally after being warned of the consequences he was punished with lashes.

If there is a positive mitzvah for a Jew to eat the flesh of the Pesach sacrifice, why is it so wrong for him to break a bone in order to add the marrow in that bone to his consumption of this sacred food?

The Sefer Hachinuch offers an explanation of this prohibition, which applies as well to three other prohibitions connected with the manner in which the sacrificial flesh is to be eaten.

The first Pesach sacrifice was slaughtered, broiled and eaten on the thresholdof the exodus from Egyptian bondage. But Jews were not just another nation of slaves released from bondage. They had been designated by G-d to receive the Torah and to be a nation of royal aristocracy. To impress this upon His chosen people, G-d commanded them to behave like aristocrats in their manner of eating. One of the ways to do so was to avoid behaving like dogs who break the bones to get to the marrow within because that is all they have at their disposal.

Two questions arise in regard to this perspective.

If this same lesson was also communicated by the other three prohibitions, why was it necessary to have so many commandments to achieve the same goal? And if this lesson was necessary for the people about to be freed from slavery, what is its purpose for future generations?

“Man is what he does” is the famous rule of human behavior repeatedly applied by the Sefer Hachinuch in explaining the purpose of mitzvot. The more a person fulfills the commands of the Torah the more he develops his spiritual personality. To achieve the maximum sense of aristocracy and the responsibility that goes with it, there was a need for so many guidelines in how to eat the Pesach sacrifice.

In regard to the relevance of the lesson for future generations, we must recall what we say in our Haggada on Pesach eve about the obligation of every Jew on that holiday to visualize himself as if he himself was taken out of Egypt. Since Pesach is a reliving of the Exodus, it was necessary for Jews to relive the experience of being instantly transformed from slavery to aristocracy and to appreciate their special place in the world.

What the Sages Say

“Even an iron curtain cannot separate between Israel and their Father in Heaven.”
  • Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi
    Pesachim 85b

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