When He Smote Egypt and Our Houses He Saved
The Holiday of Passover is so called because God passed over (pasach)
our houses when He smote the Egyptians with the plague of the firstborn
and He saved our houses (Exodus 12:27).
We all know why God was hitting the Egyptians. The Egyptians used their
strength to take advantage of a nation that did them no harm. They
displayed a stunning lack of appreciation for what Joseph had done for
them and they went and enslaved Joseph’s children and his people. They
became paranoid about Israel and created false and evil accusations
about them and in their self-centered cruelty, they killed innocent
children. All this is there in the Torah in the beginning of the Book of
In short, Egypt displayed every negative character trait quality and we
felt the brunt of it. We witnessed what happens when humans allow
themselves to be ruled by their negative side.
When God came to give the Egyptians the fruit of their wickedness, He
saved our houses. And this is an awesome responsibility because this
means God wants us to be the opposite of what the Egyptians had
become. He saved us to be different.
As we sit around our Passover table we need to remember; when He Hit
Egypt, He saved us and expected us to be His people. People who do not
take advantage of others because they find themselves in a stronger
position, be it physically, socially, emotionally, financially or
spiritually. But rather we need to be people who hear the argument, the
pain and the fear of those who are weaker than us. Instead of a focus on
our own wants and needs we should be attuned to the wants and needs of
others. Instead of attributing the worst intentions to the people around
us, we should judge them favorably. Instead of seeing people that are
different from us as opponents and as a potential threat, we should see
them as brothers and equals and see their needs and wants. Passover
demands that instead of remembering every real and imagined negative
thought or deed that was done against us and living with the bearing of
grudges, we remember and magnify the good that others have done for us
and live with the quality of appreciation. Instead of seeing others as
objects that we can use for our advantage, be it emotional or financial;
we should seek to benefit them in any way that we can.
The responsibility of Passover is to be different than Egypt. This may
sound like an impossible task. Can we truly rid ourselves of every
negative character trait? Don’t the ethical masters teach that it is a
lifetime of work to break one negative character quality, how then can
we avoid being like Egypt?
The answer is that serving God is not a destination, it is a journey. It
is not our business to perfect ourselves overnight. It is our
responsibility to travel in the right direction. We need to grow and
move forward with happiness and joy that God brought us close to His
service, to be His people. And we can know and trust that God is with us
every step of the way.
May God accept those step we take towards Him and clean us all the
impurity that Egypt represents. And may it be His will to shine the
light of the redemption upon us and through us to light up the world
with His light.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal