Thursday, January 21, 2010

Is blood on the doorposts le-dorot?

Summary: Two parses of a pasuk yields the blood on the doorposts as a command for just in Egypt, and as a recurring commandment. Similar to the structure by amah ivriya. I strongly favor the traditional parse as the better parse.

Post: The juxtaposition of blood on the doorposts with a statement that it is a generation stature seems to strongly suggest that this is a mitzvah ledoros. The pesukim:

כג  וְעָבַר ה', לִנְגֹּף אֶת-מִצְרַיִם, וְרָאָה אֶת-הַדָּם עַל-הַמַּשְׁקוֹף, וְעַל שְׁתֵּי הַמְּזוּזֹת; וּפָסַח יְהוָה, עַל-הַפֶּתַח, וְלֹא יִתֵּן הַמַּשְׁחִית, לָבֹא אֶל-בָּתֵּיכֶם לִנְגֹּף.
23 For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side-posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.
כד  וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם, אֶת-הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה, לְחָק-לְךָ וּלְבָנֶיךָ, עַד-עוֹלָם.
24 And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever.

What is this chok? It would seem to be putting the blood on the doorpost. And indeed, that is how Aharon ben Yosef the Karaite has it:

Thus, it is for both pesach mitzrayim and pesach dorot.

I agree with Ibn Ezra and Ramban that this was not the intent. It is unfortunate that the Torah lacks indentation, which would show which sentences are subordinate to which other ones. But based on the recurring theme in the perek is that the overall avodah is what is ledorot, and that that avodah of course has specific details which need be mentioned.

First, pasuk 3 introduces the command,
which Hashem instructs Moshe to instruct. He does not yet instruct, but he is commanded to do so:

ג  דַּבְּרוּ, אֶל-כָּל-עֲדַת יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר, בֶּעָשֹׂר, לַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה:  וְיִקְחוּ לָהֶם, אִישׁ שֶׂה לְבֵית-אָבֹת--שֶׂה לַבָּיִת.
3 Speak ye unto all the 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;

and it continues with all sorts of eventualities, and halachot. What if their are fewer people in a household than could eat a lamb? What sort of lamb? And you shall even tell kehilchot haPesach. And there is a juxtaposition of details:

יג  וְהָיָה הַדָּם לָכֶם לְאֹת, עַל הַבָּתִּים אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם שָׁם, וְרָאִיתִי אֶת-הַדָּם, וּפָסַחְתִּי עֲלֵכֶם; וְלֹא-יִהְיֶה בָכֶם נֶגֶף לְמַשְׁחִית, בְּהַכֹּתִי בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.
13 And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and there shall no plague be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.
יד  וְהָיָה הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה לָכֶם לְזִכָּרוֹן, וְחַגֹּתֶם אֹתוֹ חַג לַיהוָה:  לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם, חֻקַּת עוֹלָם תְּחָגֻּהוּ.
14 And this day shall be unto you for a memorial, and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.

The day is as a memorial ledorot, and the aspect of the blood on the doorposts, in order to let them survive, was just that, a juxtaposition. It continues with an issur melacha, observing the feast of matza ledoros, in pasuk 17, and continues with getting rid of chametz.

In pasuk 21, Moshe begins to fulfill Hashem's command, by instructing them in the hilchot haPesach. This is Pesach Mitzrayim, so naturally he will give the instructions that are necessary for that day in Egypt. And he explains about the blood on the doorpost, and the immediate purpose for this. And then it ends with:

כד  וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם, אֶת-הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה, לְחָק-לְךָ וּלְבָנֶיךָ, עַד-עוֹלָם.
24 And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever.

This, that the blood on the doorpost is ledoros, is not something we would have (necessarily) surmised from Hashem's command, and Moshe's instruction is supposed to echo Hashem's command. Rather, Moshe is rehashing the same ledoros aspect as before, as he was instructed. And we should ignore the immediate juxtaposition, and understand that the davar hazeh is the shechting of the lamb mentioned at the beginning of the matter.

Then, there is expansion of the ledoros aspect of it. We should not read the repetition as evidence that it is two different chukim in play here. Rather, it is an expansion, and in particular, an expansion of the dramatic aspect of this. They are being promised here that there will be a ledoros, and also an impending salvation! That is amazing, which is why in pasuk 27, the people bow their heads and worship.

כה  וְהָיָה כִּי-תָבֹאוּ אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר יִתֵּן יְהוָה לָכֶם--כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֵּר; וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם, אֶת-הָעֲבֹדָה הַזֹּאת.
25 And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the LORD will give you, according as He hath promised, that ye shall keep this service.
כו  וְהָיָה, כִּי-יֹאמְרוּ אֲלֵיכֶם בְּנֵיכֶם:  מָה הָעֲבֹדָה הַזֹּאת, לָכֶם.
26 And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you: What mean ye by this service?
כז  וַאֲמַרְתֶּם זֶבַח-פֶּסַח הוּא לַיהוָה, אֲשֶׁר פָּסַח עַל-בָּתֵּי בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּמִצְרַיִם, בְּנָגְפּוֹ אֶת-מִצְרַיִם, וְאֶת-בָּתֵּינוּ הִצִּיל; וַיִּקֹּד הָעָם, וַיִּשְׁתַּחֲווּ.
27 that ye shall say: It is the sacrifice of the LORD'S passover, for that He passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when He smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses.' And the people bowed the head and worshipped.
כח  וַיֵּלְכוּ וַיַּעֲשׂוּ, בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:  כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה אֶת-מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן, כֵּן עָשׂוּ.  {ס}
28 And the children of Israel went and did so; as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they. {S}

We should therefore look at the two sets of instructions as binocular vision, such that one informs upon the other. And the ledoros thing which will cause the children to ask is the general avodah; and there is nothing clear-cut that the avodah should include hyssop and blood on doorposts, despite it being called a korban Pesach in honor of events long ago.

Perhaps I am biased as a Pharisee, but this is how I see it on a peshat level; and while I think I see what could compel another reading, I think that reading would be a mistake. Now, to see Ibn Ezra and Ramban say it.

Ibn Ezra:
יב, כד]
ושמרתם -
רבים חשבו כי נתינת הדם על המשקוף ועל שתי המזוזות חיוב לדורות, בעבור כי הדבר הזה סמוך אל לקיחת האזוב וטבילתו.
ועוד: כי כתוב אחר כן אשר פסח על בתי בני ישראל. ובדרך הסברא נכון היה, לולי קבלת האמת הנגמרת. הנה הנכון שמלת הדבר הזה שב אל ושחטו הפסח.
וטעם שאלת הבנים בראותם כל המשפחה חבורה אחת אוכלים שה תמים ראשו על כרעיו ועל קרבו ועצם לא תשברו בו, ובן נכר ותושב ערל ושכיר לא יאכל בו, ואין זה המנהג במועדים אחרים.

Thus, while sevara might impel us to consider the blood on the doorposts to be ledoros, based on the juxtaposition and the explanation to the אֲשֶׁר פָּסַח עַל-בָּתֵּי בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּמִצְרַיִם, בְּנָגְפּוֹ אֶת-מִצְרַיִם, we have a tradition of the truth, that the correct parse has hadavar hazeh refer to the slaughtering of the paschal offering. And that which would impel the children to ask is not the blood on the doorposts, but rather the collection of people eating an unblemished lamb, its head with its legs, where we cannot broke a bone and various types of people cannot eat of it, which is not the custom in other moadim.

Personally, I {=Josh} think that one can arrive at this parse entirely miderech hasevara; but at the very least, either one is possible, and so Ibn Ezra pays heed to the traditional parse.

Ramban says a similar thing about the binding of hadavar hazeh:
כד): ושמרתם את הדבר הזה -
הוא דבר הפסח עצמו שאמר למעלה (בפסוק כא): ושחטו הפסח, ואם הוא רחוק, לא מתן הדמים הסמוך לו, כי בפסח מצרים בלבד נצטוו בכך, כמו שאמר (בפסוק כג): ועבר ה' וראה את הדם וגו', וכן ושמרתם את העבודה הזאת (פסוק כה), זבח פסח, וכמוהו (דברים טו יז): ואף לאמתך תעשה כן:

That is, it binds to the more distant slaughter of the paschal lamb rather than to the immediately juxtaposed blood on the doorpost. His argument is: only for Pesach Mitzrayim were they commanded this, since the purpose is that that night of Makkas Bechoros Hashem would pass by and see. Furthermore, the echoing in the next pasuk is the avodah hazot, which is the zevach pesach. Finally, he gives a parallel to the going out of an amah ivriyah:

יז  וְלָקַחְתָּ אֶת-הַמַּרְצֵעַ, וְנָתַתָּה בְאָזְנוֹ וּבַדֶּלֶת, וְהָיָה לְךָ, עֶבֶד עוֹלָם; וְאַף לַאֲמָתְךָ, תַּעֲשֶׂה-כֵּן.
17 then thou shalt take an awl, and thrust it through his ear and into the door, and he shall be thy bondman for ever. And also unto thy bondwoman thou shalt do likewise.

One might thing that "do likewise" means the awl through the ear. Really, it is the giving of presents, which was interrupted with a tangential detail. See inside.

I {=Josh} would add as another example of such indentation and thus binding to a distant, earlier statement is by an amah ivriyah, in terms of "if these three not be done for her, she goes free without money." The question there is which three. It could be the immediately juxtaposed detail of how, if one takes an additional wife after yiud, he may not reduce her shear, kesus and onah. Or, it could refer to three ways of leaving the servitude, which had been discussed earlier.

In all these instances, bullet points and indentation -- or curly brackets as in some programming languages -- could have clarified matters greatly. In absence of these, we should at the least recognize the ambiguity in these verses, and not leap to the interpretation based on immediate juxtaposition, to declare it the most or only plausible reading. And as this is a living document, which some tradition as to what the meaning should be, I feel that we should indeed grant great credence to the traditional parse. (Of course, Ancient Near Eastern parallels might cause us to somewhat reevaluate the likelihoods of different parses; and I am thinking of particulars without going into details here.)

As an aside, it seems that Ibn Caspi regards the placing of the dam on the mezuzot as an aspect of the paschal offering which is ledoros, for he writes:

כו) מה העבודה הזאת. התאספם בשחיטת הפסת ואכלם
אותו בחפזון וביתר תנאיו, והנעת הדם אל המשקוף ושתי המזוזות:

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