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Dvar for Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16)

In preparation for the last plague, Moshe instructs the Jews to place blood from the lamb on their doorposts so that G-d will “pasach” their entrance. Rashi interprets “pasach” to mean that G-d will either “have pity” or “skip over” the Jewish homes (12:23) and smite only the Egyptian homes. While skipping over Jewish homes makes sense, why would Rashi translate G-d’s actions as having pity?

Rabbi Yochanan Zweig proposes that many Jews considered themselves Jewish Egyptians, after being enslaved and enduring the previous plagues. For the Jews that self-identified as Egyptian Jews – G-d happily skipped over and saved them. Those who identified themselves as Egyptians but still put the blood on their doorposts were saved as well, but out of pity rather than merit.

While identifying with our past is important and admirable, it is foundational to our identity and it is that which enables us to actively identify as a Jew in the present. As grateful as we must be for the freedoms and liberties of the country in which we live, we are forever indebted to our ancestors for getting us to this place so that we may thrive as a Jewish people.