Bo: Home Sweet Home

The First Passover

In this week’s Torah portion, Bo, the Jews are commanded to prepare the Passover sacrifices and celebrate with matzah and bitter herbs the night before leaving Egypt. Unlike later Passover offerings which take place in the Mishkan and the Holy Temple, the very first Passover sacrifice does not happen in a central location but rather in each Jewish family’s private residence. The Israelites are commanded to remain within their homes all night and to put blood on the doorposts, in order to protect them from the Angel of Death killing the Egyptian first-born. But the Jews don’t need to take these extra precautions to protect them from the previous plagues, so why are they required now, during the final plague?

By following God’s commandment to stay home and mark the doorpost with sacrificial blood, the Israelites make their homes part of the mitzvah. The message from God to the Jewish people, transmitted in their final hours of slavery, is that every Jewish home is holy. Our mission as Jews is to elevate the mundane and bring heaven down to earth. We do not require towering monuments or majestic cathedrals to be close to God. The center of our religion is the home. When a Jewish woman lights Shabbat candles, when a Jewish man makes the blessing over wine on Friday night, when a Jewish family hosts a Passover seder, they turn their humble abode into a resting place for the Divine Presence. So too we must transform every part of this world into a place of peace and serenity, a fitting home for God.

Image: The Angel of Death and the First Passover by C. Foster, 1897

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