"And this is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste, it is a Passover offering to HaShem."
"Haste makes waste." That's what they tell us. And we tend to accept this as axiomatic. But is it necessarily true? Torah tells us otherwise. Torah tells us that haste is an essential ingredient of the redemptive process. Our forefathers seized the opportunity which G-d created for them and left Egypt in great haste. This need for haste was eternalized by the Torah commandment for all generations for each family of Israel to prepare a lamb for a korban Pesach - Passover offering - make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, slaughter the lamb within the Holy Temple courtyard, roast the lamb in Jerusalem, and eat the lamb in its entirety before midnight. This process of haste could, in many cases, extend over two weeks time, beginning with the pilgrimage preparations, and concluding, in an ever greater sense of haste, with the eating of the lamb. Since the destruction of the Holy Temple, from which point in time the korban Pesach has not been offered, this sense of urgency has been embodied by the intense Passover preparations made in each individual home, often exhausting, often conducted right to the last minute, and concluding with the Passover Seder, again, which must be concluded by midnight.
Why did G-d insist that the children of Israel eat the Passover offering in haste? After all, G-d planned and carried out every detail of the exodus from Egypt, beginning with His first call to Moshe, continuing throughout the ten plagues, and concluding with the korban Pesach and the midnight escape. Nothing was left to chance. Why the last-minute rush?
"Haste makes waste." Indeed. But "he who hesitates is lost":
"They baked the dough that they had taken out of Egypt as unleavened cakes, for it had not leavened, for they were driven out of Egypt, and they could not tarry, and also, they had not made provisions for themselves." (Exodus 12:39)
The "haste" (chipazon) described in verse eleven has now been modified to "could not tarry." A more accurate translation would be, "could not hesitate." The very word used, le-hit-ma-me-ah, with its repetitive ma-me implies uncertainty, repeating instead of moving forward. What was described earlier as haste, is not a waste-making haste, but an undeniable, almost unbearable urgency.
"The gates of repentance are always open to all who seek to enter." Another axiom. The opportunity for redemption - ge-ula - is also always at hand - for those who seek it urgently, for those who are willing discard their appointment books and personal calendars, jettison their vacation plans, reorder their priorities, and make all holy haste to grab it. When the sense of urgency is upon us, when ge-ula is for us the only option, so compelling that we are "unable to hesitate," then redemption is ours for the taking.
We are instructed that to properly observe the Passover holiday, we must see ourselves as having personally left Egypt. We do this by reliving the urgent sense of haste and unshakable resolve which, in the end, after each of the ten plagues had been visited upon Egypt, was the decisive factor in our escape from slavery and transformation into free men. With our loins girded, our shoes on our feet, and our staff in our hands, we stand again today, ready to turn our lives upside-down and inside-out, whatever it takes, to seize the moment, and bring on the redemption.
Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven get ready for Passover... that is, as best as they can, without the most important ingredient of all, the Passover offering in the Holy Temple. How can we tolerate another Passover going by without Israel appearing before G-d in the Holy Temple, as instructed? The Passover offering is not only the main aspect of the holiday; it is an experience and Divine commandment which is intrinsically bound up with the very identity of the people of Israel.