Parshat Bo Dvar Torah
By Stephen Kirschenbaum
In this week’s parsha, Moshe Rabbeinu gathers the Ziknei Yisrael to relay the mitzvah of Korban Pesach. The Gemara explains the pasuk as follows: mishchu yidaichem mai’avoda zarah, u’k’chu la’chem tzon — first pull your hands back from the Avodah Zorah, which many Jews had become accustomed to in Mitzrayim, and then purchase the sheep for yourselves for the Korban Pesach.
The Panim Yafos asks since the sheep were avodah zarah, they should have been disqualified to be brought as a korban. How then did the sheep become kasher to be offered as a Korban Pesach? He answers based on a halacha found in maseches Avodah Zarah. If a non-Jew owns an avodah zarah, it is possible for the avodah zarah to become permitted due to the concept of bitul. Bitul is when a non-Jewish idol worshiper denounces the Avodah Zarah either by destroying it or by doing something that demonstrates his newfound disregard for it. Any type of such action could render the avodah zara permissible. One type of bitul is if an idol worshiper sells the idol to someone who is not an idol worshiper. One who believes in the idol would not sell the god to one who does not believe in it — certainly not an animal which the buyer will subsequently kill. Therefore, when the Mitzrim sold their Avodah Zarah (sheep) to the Jews, that itself constituted a bitul which rendered the sheep muttar to offer as a korban. However, a sale only works as a bitul if the purchaser himself is not an oved avodah zarah. Likewise, if the buyer is an oved avodah zarah, then the sale doesn’t constitute a bitul. So, the pasuk mishchu yidaichem mai’avoda zorah, first demonstrate that you no longer believe in the avodah zarah and only then u’k’chu la’chem tzon, could you purchase for yourself the sheep to be brought as a korban.
In turn, this was a tremendous responsibility on Klal Yisrael. Between the time they were commanded and the time they purchased the sheep, they had to separate themselves from the avodah zarah to such a degree that it would be obvious to all that they were no longer ovedei avodah zarah. After all, even if in their hearts they were not idol worshipers, if the sellers thought they were, the bitul would be insufficient. The whole point of this bitul was to have the idol worshiper sell to the non-idol worshiper. This was the obligation of Klal Yisrael — mishchu, to pull themselves back from being oved avodah zarah, specifically at that moment, to ensure the requisite suitability to be offered as a korban.
This idea sheds light on Melachim II, perek 23 where King Yoshiyahu initiated a teshuvah movement among the Jewish people immediately prior to Pesach. Shortly thereafter, he gathered the Jews together and offered the Korban Pesach. The pasuk says this Pesach was so extraordinary that there had not been such a Passover sacrifice offered in Jerusalem. The question is Dovid Hamelech, Shlomo Hamelech and others celebrated Pesach as well. Certainly their generation were more knowledgeable and more me’hadeir b’mitzvos than Yoshiyahu’s generation who had just done teshuvah. What was so unique and special about Yoshiyahu’s Korban Pesach?
The Korban Pesach that was rooted in teshuva and offered to Hashem by those that had just rejected the avodah zarah was something that Dovid and Shlomo’s generation didn’t do, but Yoshiyahu’s generation did. The beauty of the Korban Pesach of Yoshiyahu is that the people were moving in the direction of teshuvah by rejecting the avodah zarah and bolstering their emunah b’Hashem. For this reason, Yoshiyahu’s Korban Pesach was special and unique, since a Pesach of this caliber had not occurred on such a scale in a very long time.