Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16)Actions vs. Miracles

On the tenth of this month, they shall take for themselves, each person, a lamb for each household, a lamb for the household. (Exodus 12:3)
The tenth of this month refers to the day the Jews would designate of a lamb as the Passover offering, but the actual offering happened four days later. Why couldn’t they simply have designated and offered the lamb on the same day; why did they need to have it in their homes for four days? One explanation is that the lamb was an object of Egyptian worship; they had to slaughter the idol of the land to remove themselves from idolatry and attach themselves to the true G-d.  
It’s hard to understand why they needed to do an action to detach themselves from Egyptian idolatry. By this point, they had already witnessed nine plagues, seeing months of supernatural happenings. How could they still have allegiance to a pagan god? Ultimately, what was gained by these additional four days?
Even though miracles create an intellectual understanding that G-d alone is the omnipotent Power of the Universe, nevertheless, it wasn’t enough to irradicate years of idolatrous practice and belief. They might have been able to slaughter the lamb, but having to choose the lamb and keep it in the home for four days prior to the slaughter was such a rejection of the idolatrous past that it succeeded in purifying the heart from all remnants of the intellectually rejected paganism.
But how are we to understand this? If a year of plagues couldn’t totally cleanse them of idolatry, how could a mere four days succeed in eliminating it? We see that sometimes actions are stronger than even fantastic miracles. Miracles may overwhelm but they won’t work as a solid tool in real change and character development. A personal action connects the emotion to the intellect and makes an impact not only the brain but also on the heart.  
Some people say, if I would witness a miracle, see it with my own eyes, then I’d be a different person and take G-d more seriously. This is a mistake because even if we saw outright miracles, we still would ultimately fall back on our default/comfort mode of life. During Israel’s War of Independence (1948), the Six Day War (1967), and the Yom Kippur War (1973) there were numerous stories about soldiers and civilians who witnessed outright miracles and had religious moments, but then went back to their everyday mode of life. During the Yom Kippur War in a place called Emek Habacha—‘The Valley of Tears’ 35 Israeli tanks held off 650 Syrian tanks! When you visit Israel and see the place, the tour guides mention it as a miracle—but did everyone in that tank unit change his life? During the Gulf War when Iraq sent 39 Scud missiles into heavily populated cities and in all there was one death (To give an idea of the magnitude of the miracle keep in mind that one scud missile fell on a U.S. Army barrack in Saudi Arabia, killing tens of U.S. soldiers.).  People spoke about miracles at that time, but how many actually made life changes? How many became more sensitive to their spouses or were more honest in business? Yes, some did take it to heart but years of miracles in Israel have never been the impetus to stimulate connecting Jews to their legacy and birthright.With the Mitzva of taking the Paschal Lamb into their homes for four days prior to offering it, a lesson was being taught to Jews of that generation and all others. Jewish life isn’t dependent on miracles or perfunctory performance of rituals. Only meaningful actions can serve as opportunities for emotional and spiritual wellness. Vibrant Judaism requires action, thought, AND learning why those actions (mitzvos) are significant.Instead of waiting for miracles, if you’re looking for meaning in life, try becoming a vibrant Jew. Become the miracle rather than hopelessly waiting for one to happen to you.                            (Source: Chidushei Halev by Rav Henoch Leibowitz; Rabbi Pinchus Avruc)
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