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The Pesach Seder - A Mitzvah For the Whole Family

יִקְח֣וּ לָהֶ֗ם אִ֛ישׁ שֶׂ֥ה לְבֵית־אָבֹ֖ת שֶׂ֥ה לַבָּֽיִת׃

Each of them shall take a lamb to a family, a lamb to a household. (Shmot 12:3)

The Torah commands every family to take a lamb for the Korban Pesach (Passover Sacrifice). For most mitzvot, the commandment is individual. Rashi explains that this includes the larger family unit, such as grandparents, married children, and their spouses and children.

The Korban Pesach must be eaten before midnight on the first night of Pesach. Nothing can be left over. That’s a lot of lamb to eat in one night. Therefore, anyone who brings the Passover Sacrifice would have to include as many people as possible, family members, and even non-family members.

וְאִם־יִמְעַ֣ט הַבַּ֘יִת֮ מִהְי֣וֹת מִשֶּׂה֒ וְלָקַ֣ח ה֗וּא וּשְׁכֵנ֛וֹ הַקָּרֹ֥ב אֶל־בֵּית֖וֹ בְּמִכְסַ֣ת נְפָשֹׁ֑ת אִ֚ישׁ לְפִ֣י אׇכְל֔וֹ תָּכֹ֖סּוּ עַל־הַשֶּֽׂה׃

But if the household is too small for a lamb, let it share one with a neighbor who dwells nearby, in proportion to the number of persons: you shall contribute for the lamb according to what each household will eat. (Shmot 12:4)

Likewise, if you do not have enough people in your family to justify sacrificing a lamb, you need to join in with another family.

On the other hand, nearly every other mitzvah is an individual mitzvah. The commandment to pray 3 times a day, wear tefillin, shake the lulav, and hear the shofar are all mitzvot that each individual must fulfill on their own. But to properly fulfill the mitzvah of Korban Pesach, you have to make sure that it is a familial, if not communal, mitzvah.

Our Pesach Seder today is modeled after the eating of the Korban Pesach. At the Bet Hamikdash, large families would gather together to enjoy the Korban Pesach, just like our seders today, where families and friends gather together to enjoy the seder, including its festive meal.

כָּל דִכְפִין יֵיתֵי וְיֵיכֹל, כָּל דִצְרִיךְ יֵיתֵי וְיִפְסַח.

Anyone who is famished should come and eat, anyone who is in need should come and partake of the Pesach sacrifice.

At the Seder, we make an extra effort to be inclusive of the entire family, as well as guests. Just like at the Korban Pesach, one would include someone who could not sacrifice their own lamb, at today’s Seder we include someone who would otherwise be alone, or could not have their own Seder.

At the same time, there is an extra emphasis on children at the Seder. Children ask the Mah Nishtana (the 4 questions) at the beginning of the Seder. We break the afikomen and hide it for the children to find later on. And of course, there is the narrative of the 4 sons, and how one should explain the story of Pesach to different types of children.

Different families have different customs or just unique methods of keeping their children engaged the entire night of the seder. Some sneak them candy throughout the night, others promise elaborate gifts. The point is to include every member of the family.

חג כשר ושמח!



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