In the portion of Bo, we read about the korban Pesach, the Paschal sacrifice, which was a yearling male lamb or goat. The korban Pesach in Egypt differed from the sacrifices brought in subsequent years, in that it had to be brought into the home four days prior, in anticipation of slaughtering it.1 As Moses instructed with regards to the korban Pesach, "Withdraw and take for yourselves sheep for your families and slaughter the Pesach."2

Rashi3 asks: Why was it to be taken four days before its slaughter?

He answers that “Rabbi Masia, the son of Charash, used to say: Behold, [G‑d] says: ‘And I passed by you and saw you, and behold your time was the time of love.’4 The [time for the fulfillment of the] oath that I swore to Abraham, that I would redeem his children, has arrived. But they had no mitzvot in their hands with which to occupy themselves in order that they be redeemed, as it is said: ‘but you were naked and bare.’5 So, G‑d gave them two mitzvot, the blood of the Passover and the blood of the circumcision ... Moreover, they were passionately fond of idolatry. [Moses] said to them, ‘Withdraw and take for yourselves.’ [He meant:] withdraw from idolatry and take for yourselves sheep for the mitzvah.”

Rashi's answer explains why we needed the mitzvah of korban Pesach. However, it doesn't seem to explain why we had to have it four days prior to slaughtering it. But since this is the question Rashi is answering, we must conclude that somehow this does answer the question. But how?

Another question. The second answer that Rashi gives—"They were passionately fond of idolatry"—is not from Rabbi Masia. It is, in fact, from Rabbi Eliezer Hakapar, who differs with him on this. Oddly, Rashi doesn't make mention of his name. He doesn't even preface it with "and there are those that say..." Why doesn’t he?

In truth, Rashi's purpose in writing his commentary is to explain the simple meaning of the verse, and not to cite where he took his explanation from. It is uncommon for him to cite the name of the person who said a given answer. The only time Rashi does so is when it will add clarity to his explanation. So, the real question is not why he didn't mention Rabbi Eliezer Hakapar, but why does he mention Rabbi Masia?

From the second answer of Rashi, "They were passionately fond of idolatry," we can understand that, somehow, the taking of the sheep was necessary to "withdraw from idolatry." However, the main reason for the korban Pesach is, as the name suggests, “pass over.” They were to put the blood of the sacrifice on the doorposts and on the lintels of their homes, so G‑d would pass over their houses as He was administering the plague of the death of the firstborn. Therefore, Rashi first brings the words of Rabbi Masia, to explain that there was another reason for the Korban Pesach. It was to give the Jewish people a mitzvah to do so they won't be "naked and bare.”

Rabbi Masia says that they were given two mitzvot, the korban Pesach and circumcision. Why did they need two mitzvot? Why wasn't one enough?

When it comes to mitzvot, there are two kinds: there are those that are "refraining from bad," and then there is "doing good."6 Both of these ideals had to be engaged because even if they did good, as long as they didn't break away from the bad that they were involved in, they wouldn't be able to be redeemed.

The mitzvah of circumcision represented "doing good," as it is a general mitzvah that solidifies the covenant between us and G‑d. And the mitzvah of Korban Pesach represents "refraining from bad," breaking away from the negative things they were into. How does the korban Pesach represent a break away from bad?

In parshat Va'eira,7 we learned that sheep were the false deity of Egypt. And since the Jewish people were "passionately fond of idolatry," they needed to break away from that. So, they were told to take a sheep, the deity of Egypt, and slaughter it. But, if they were to take the sheep and slaughter it immediately, one might think that they did it in a moment of passion and that they aren't truly free from idolatry. So they were told to take the sheep four days before they were to slaughter it, giving them enough time to think about what they were doing.

How do we know that it takes four days? When G‑d commanded Abraham to bring Isaac as an offering, it took three days for G‑d to show him the place. Rashi8 explains that He did this so that no one should be able to say that Abraham did it in a moment of passion, Rather, he would have time to think about what he is doing and do it out of reason.

From here it is clear that it takes four days. Abraham set out on the morning after he was commanded to take Yitzchak and offer him up as a sacrifice to G‑d. That day, plus the three days until he was shown the place, make four days, ample time for him to think about this painful sacrifice.

In order for us to understand that G‑d's promise to Abraham was not enough of a reason to redeem the Jewish people, but He wanted them also to have mitzvot. Rashi mentions that this is what "Rabbi Masia used to say." The Talmud9 tells us that Rabbi Masia's yeshivah was in Rome. While there were other yeshivot in Israel, his was the largest.10

Why did he choose to establish his yeshivah in Rome, a place far away, so that students would have to travel a long distance to join? And, from all places, in Rome, the capital of the the nation who had exiled Israel?

Whenever it says that a sage "used to say," it means that it was what he lived by. In Rabbi Masia's case, it is that every Jewish person has to have mitzvot in order to be redeemed. So he established his yeshiva in Rome, so that he could touch even people who are at the level of Rome, "naked and bare" of Torah and mitzvot, and turn them into yeshiva students.

The lesson to us is that one might ask, "What is the point of this prolonged exile? Hasn't it gone on long enough?"

If all that was necessary for the exile to end was for G‑d to take us out, it would have happened long ago. But G‑d wants more from us. He wants us to have mitzvot, that we shouldn't be "naked and bare.” And since, when Moshiach comes, '"All of Israel" will be redeemed, we should try our best to reach every Jew, and have him or her do even one more mitzvah.11

May we be successful in reaching every Jew, doing mitzvot with them. May we march together with our heads up high, knowing that we are not "naked and bare," and that every one of us has mitzvot. May it happen soon.