Monday, April 6, 2009

Pesach- 2: AGNVS DEI; The Crying of the Lambs

Well, it's time to fulfill my wish and write a bit about the "meat and potatoes" of what I see Pesach to be about. That's something I like about Pesach; there're just so many aspects of it: יציאת מצריים, the personalities of it's main players, the קרבן פסח, the leavening idea, the סדר, etc..

I would like to initiate this monologue by saying that the aspects of Pesach that are generally stressed today are, at best, only secondary aspects of what the "true" Pesach once was. What I mean of course is that since the Pascal Sacrifice has (generally) not been performed for a while, the stress has shifted a bit more to חמץ and מצה issues. This year the ברכה to be recited over the renewal of and appreciation for our star's once in 28 year renewed cycle (ברכת החמה) is also apparent, yet this too pales in comparison with the more important (Biblical) commandments regarding the קרבן פסח. It's interesting to note, for example, that there are a great many Biblical stipulations in regards to this mitzvah, while it's well known that mitzvot such as שבת and תפילין receive little Biblical representation comparatively.

So, even though we personally might not be fulfilling this command this year, it is of great importance for he who wishes to focus their minds on the essential aspects of Pesach, to ponder this mitzvah, and more importantly, to attempt to visualize what significance those to whom G_d spoke concerning this would have attributed to it (thereby revealing the Divine purpose inherent within it).

It is well known that "the Egyptians worshiped sheep" and that G_d commanded to kill the sheep as a representation of separation from Egypt and all that she held important. Which is why I have always felt that the best way, then, to understand this sacrifice would be to better understand this aspect of the ancient Egyptian religion, and the best way to understand this aspect of that religion is to better understand the concept of "animal worship" in general (there is historical evidence that Egyptians didn't believe in animal sacrifice). In that realm there seems to have been a difference of opinion between Herodotus and Diodorus as to what this worship meant to the Egyptians; the former suggested that the Egyptians did not "worship" animals, rather they respected animals that (they felt) the gods held sacred and, at times, manifested themselves in, while the latter felt they were actually worshiping the animals. Herodotus' view has been accepted as being more correct than that of Diodorus.

The Ram (Sheep) represented a number of deities, one of whom was the chief god, Amun (who, at most times in the history of his worship, seemed to have been at the head of their pantheon, and was representative of virility).

....I once read that it's really kind of silly to say "people worshiped" so-and-so god in ancient times. It's almost like writing in an abridged history for future students, "Adolf Hitler was a political leader in Germany in the 1930's and 40's". Yes, he was a political leader, but that doesn't display how people felt when they went to Hitler's rallies. The same wonder one would have as to why Germany voted for a destructive leader in the 30's without knowing about the emotions that were rampant then is that which he would have when atempting to understand why people worshiped a statue of a guy with a ram head without knowing the prevailing moods people had in his worship. It was everything; patriotism, religion, euphoria, numinous and social event all in one (I mean, people shed tears in those temples, man!)..

Then we are faced with this commandment to sacrifice this national representative of the divine, with all it's particularities (איסור שבירת עצם, נותר, וכדומה). So again, I feel it would be wrong to jump to conclusions about how the lesson of the קרבן פסח can be translated to our lives, yet I also feel it's not advised to come to quick speculations about how the Israelites were to feel about these קרבן פסח commandments. I feel the best is to present the premises, and allow individuals to come to the conclusions they see the most logical, and the most applicable to their lives.

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