The Torah describes (Exodus 12:6-7) how each Hebrew family designates a lamb, and sets it aside. On the evening of the Israelites' deliverance from slavery in Egypt, they slaughter the lamb, roast and eat it. The lambs' blood is placed on the doorposts of their houses as a sign that Israelites live in those homes.
The name Passover comes from this offering. When God kills the Egyptian firstborn, He passes over the homes whose doors are smeared with blood.
But can't God tell who's who without a sign?!
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
When oppressed people become free, they are frequently just as brutal as their erstwhile oppressors. It turns out that it is not oppression they objected to. They'd just prefer to be on the other end of the whip.
Society's values implicate us unless we explicitly repudiate them. As a condition of their freedom, God demands that the Hebrews withdraw from Egypt and reject its values.
(This same idea helps explain why Noah had to shut himself up in an ark to escape the flood, and why Lot and his wife were told to run away from Sodom without looking back.)
The Hebrews mark their separation from Egypt by going into their homes, shutting their doors, and marking them with the blood of their offering – a rejection of the Egyptian sheep deity. All of this would serve as a sign of their devotion to God.
Why are there so many rules in Judaism? Can’t I just “do it my way?”
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
Let’s examine a piece from the Bible, Leviticus 9:1-10:2:
When the Tabernacle is finished, there are seven days of celebration. On the eighth day the Children of Israel put a sacrifice on the altar. A great ball of fire descends from the heavens and consumes the offering. The people are overwhelmed with excitement and emotion. They know God is in their midst. Then two of Aaron's sons, Nadav and Avihu, filled with ecstatic desire for even greater closeness to God, take incense and rush into the Tabernacle – and God strikes them dead. The Children of Israel are stunned.
Why does God do this?
The Bible's only clue to Nadav and Avihu's crime is the Bible's words that "they brought an offering God had not commanded." But what's wrong with volunteerism?
Did you ever notice that kids are models of helpfulness at a friend's house but won't pick up their socks at home? It's easy to be good when you don't have to, because there's no obligation to make you feel trapped and resentful. But when you're expected to clear the table, it gets your back up, and then being good is an altogether different and greater challenge. Goodness that comes and goes on a whim is neither meaningful nor reliable. Real goodness is accepted as an obligation.
Autonomy from constraint is a core American value. Pilgrims seeking religious freedom settled the 13 original colonies, and flight from political and religious coercion continues to fuel immigration to the United States.
But exaggerated emphasis on autonomy has a dark side – the breakdown of community and of moral obligation. A father needs to come home and feed his kids every night, even though he doesn't always feel personally rewarded. If each person's priority is his own fulfillment, you can't count on anyone.
Nadav and Avihu did not just value autonomy. They applied their own individuality even where God had not instructed it. (The word nadav means "voluntary.") They felt like making an offering, and they wanted to do it their way. But if you want to get close to God, you have to do it His way.
I have a child-rearing question. We found some coloring on the wall. We suspected our 4-year-old, and asked him if he did it. He denied it. We are not positive he did it, but he has a guilty look and it is very unlikely that another child did it.
What do we say to him? Do we just forget about it? Do we try to convince him to tell the truth? Do we punish him even though we are not 100% sure? What should we do?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
Your question touches on fundamental concepts of child-raising that will affect your child for a lifetime, and I commend you for taking this seriously enough to write.
The bottom line? You must not punish him unless you are 100% certain he did it.
The best thing to do is to ask the child to help clean up the walls. Do not accuse or punish. Asking for his admission isn't productive since his goal is only to escape from punishment.
After the fact, you should simply say, "We love you even if you color on walls – but it's important to tell the truth." And leave it at that.
The idea here is to help the child develop an appreciation for telling the truth that will last a lifetime. Not to necessarily get him to tell the truth regarding one incident of coloring on the wall.
Don't worry – even though you may lose this "battle," you are more likely to win the war.
In other words, teaching him to tell the truth does not have to be done specifically right now over this event. The lesson can be taught in a series of follow-up stories over the next few weeks. Use the straw man technique to develop a main character who gets into a similar situation as your son – e.g. “Once upon a time there was a boy called Mikey...”
The "plot" of each story is, naturally, that the boy lied because he was afraid – and then he told the truth and everyone was so proud of him! Also, he did not get punished for what he did, because he told the truth and said he was sorry. If the "crime" in the story involved damages of some kind – e.g. coloring on the wall – you should add in the story how he cleaned it.
The next time something like this happens with your son, remind him of the boy called Mikey who told the truth, cleaned the wall, and did not get punished.
Ask him if he wants to be like Mikey.
Tell him that if he tells the truth, then he only will have to 1) wash off the wall, and 2) say he is sorry.
If he tells the truth, then make a big deal about it – e.g. let him hear you tell the grandparents on the phone how wonderful he is, etc.
All of the above holds true in the event that you are not certain if he did it.
If you are 100% certain that he did it, then do not ask him if he did it. Just state matter-of-factly that you know that he did it, ignore any denials and get straight to the point. He must:
1) Say he's sorry
2) Clean off the wall
3) Possible punishment
Of course, point out to him that item #3 – punishment – only comes when we deny it.
And finally, one word of practical advice: Any house with young children should have washable walls!