In Bo, this week’s Torah portion, before the 10th plague and Israelite exodus from Egypt we read about the Korban Pesach. There we read:
3 Speak to the entire congregation of Israel, saying: In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household; 4 and if the household be too little for a lamb, then he and his next-door-neighbor shall take one according to the number of the souls; according to every man’s eating you shall make your count for the lamb. ( Exodus 12: 3-4)
Why did they do this ritual at this moment? The sacrifice has come to be understood as the yearly commemoration of our emergency exodus from Egypt, but this clearly happened before we left.
On one level it can be interpreted as an act of defiance and commitment. There are those who understood that the Egyptians saw the lamb as a deity. Killing the image of the Egyptian God would be a point of no return. This action spoke of the Israelite commitment to leave. On another level this helps us understand the power of ritual itself. The Korban Pesach is not a memory of our leaving, but rather what we did before we left. Where the Matzah speaks of our not being ready to leave, this sacrifice speaks of our preparation for leaving. It forced them to organize themselves in eating units.
In a recent article in the New Yorker Eric Klinenberg wrote about how after Hurricane Sandy governments are working on ‘climate proofing’ cities are upgrading ‘lifeline systems’. Some of the effort are high-tech (power, transit) and some lower intensity, such as organizing communities so that residents know which of their neighbors are vulnerable and how to assist them. In light of this article, it seems that this first Korban Pesach was low intensity means of organizing the community in preparation for their emergency exit from Egypt.
UJA Federation in partnership with many local synagogues has done amazing work in responding to Sandy, but this week I have to ask are we organized enough for the next emergency. Is our community ‘climate proof’?
Read more:UJA Federation page about responses to Sandy @ http://www.ujafedny.org/connect-to-recovery/ Provide help for those in need by donating to UJA-Federation of NY’s Hurricane Relief Fund @ https://www.ujafedny.org/hurricane-sandy-relief-fund Learn about volunteer opportunities to help people devastated by Hurricane Sandy @ http://www.ujafedny.org/hurricane-sandy-volunteer-opportunities