The tenth and final plague which G-d visited upon the Egyptians was the Plague of the Firstborn, which Moshe indicated would take place at midnight.1 To shield themselves from this plague, Jews were to sprinkle blood from the Paschal offering and from milah , circumcision, on their doorposts.
Why did Moshe indicate when this plague would take place? He didn’t do so for any of the other plagues. Also, why was it necessary for the Jewish people to seek protection from this final plague, though they didn’t have to take precautions against the previous nine?
The purpose of the last plague was not only to have the Egyptians become aware of G-d’s might, but also to rain personal destruction upon them. At such a time, it was possible for the Attribute of Justice to declare: “How are they [the Jews] different from them [the Egyptians],” for there were Jews in Egypt who were mired in idolatry.2 It was thus conceivable that some of the Jewish people would also suffer dire consequences.
In order to remove any possible complaint about the Jewish people, G-d brought the final plague at precisely midnight, so that it emanated from a level at which logic (and the complaint of the Attribute of Justice) had no standing.
The explanation is as follows: The first part of the night is symbolic of and related to severity, and thus, during this part of the night, it becomes increasingly dark. The second part of the night is symbolic of and related to kindness, for which reason the darkness lessens.
The moment of midnight unites the two opposites, kindness and severity, since, at that time, there descends an illumination of G-dliness that wholly transcends the natural order. For only something entirely higher than two opposites can unite them.3
In other words, at the time of the final plague, there was a manifestation of the essential love that G-d has for the Jewish people — a love that transcends all logic and reason. Because of this love, when the Attribute of Justice asks: “How are they different from them,” G-d responds that, whatever their state, the Jewish people are His children. And the love of a father for his children cannot be affected by any logical complaint.
But this gives rise to the following question: Since G-d’s love for the Jewish people was made manifest at the stroke of midnight, why was it necessary for them to mark their doorposts?
Since all Divine beneficences down below come about through the spiritual service of the Jewish people, even this transcendent degree of Divine love had to be drawn down through their service. For although this love is always whole and complete, in order for it to manifest itself below and be received in an inward manner, there had to be a degree of service consonant with that which was being revealed.
This is why the sign on the Jewish houses consisted of the blood of circumcision and of the Passover offering, as both indicate a level of service that transcends logic: The bond between a Jew and G-d achieved through circumcision is above logic, as we see from the fact that the mitzvah takes place while a child is utterly incapable of understanding the deed.
Bringing the Paschal offering in Egypt was also bound up with self-sacrifice, and beyond logic, for the lambs used for the offering were worshipped by the Egyptians. Nevertheless, the Jewish people took the lambs, kept them for four days, and declared that they were going to sacrifice them to G-d.
This manner of service above and beyond the level of understanding elicited a similar response from G-d — the revelation of His limitless love for the Jewish people.
Thus, our Sages say4 that it was “in the merit of their faith [in the coming redemption] that our ancestors were redeemed from Egypt.”
For faith too transcends the bounds of logic.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, pp. 864-868
Passover Offerings — Home and Away
One of the differences between the Paschal offerings brought in Egypt and subsequent Paschal offerings is that those brought in Egypt were sacrificed by each family within their homes, while the later Paschal offerings had to be sacrificed in the Mishkan or Beis HaMikdash.5
That the offerings in Egypt were brought by each family in its own home was not only permissible, but obligatory; each domicile had to have its own offering. Only when the number of individuals within one dwelling was not enough to consume the entire offering in one night was it permitted to join another family that lived nearby.6
Why did the Egyptian Paschal offering differ from all subsequent Paschal offerings?
The prophet Yechezkiel speaks of the Exodus from Egypt as the time of the Jewish nation’s birth.7 It follows that the offering brought in association with this exodus is related to the birth of the Jewish people and their subsequent function.
The Midrash informs us8 that “G-d earnestly desired a dwelling in the nethermost level,” i.e., in this physical world. This was primarily accomplished, according to the Midrash, when the Mishkan was built, as the verse states:9 “And you shall make for Me a Sanctuary and I shall reside among them.”10
Our Sages comment:11 “It does not state [‘I shall reside] in it,’ rather, ‘in them,’ that is to say, within each and every Jew.”
Since all verses are first and foremost to be understood in their simple sense,12 it follows that our Sages are telling us that in addition to the primary Mishkan and Beis HaMikdash, each Jew should seek to make his own personal Mishkan and Beis HaMikdash, so that G-d will reside within him.
Since the verse states “in them” and not “in it,” it follows that the personal Mishkan and Beis HaMikdash is of great importance.
The reason is as follows: Although the degree of holiness that resided in the Mishkan and Beis HaMikdash far surpassed the holiness that could be contained by any individual Jew as a result of his service, the physical Mishkan and Beis HaMikdash alone could not fulfill G-d’s desire for “a dwelling in the nethermost level.”
For the Mishkan and Beis HaMikdash were confined to specific sites, with most of creation existing outside these areas. It was thus necessary for the G-dliness within the Mishkan and Beis HaMikdash to reach beyond their boundaries and emanate to the outside world.13
It is by drawing down the sanctity of the Mishkan and Beis HaMikdash within his own home, thus causing his own dwelling to become a domicile of holiness, that a Jew fulfills G-d’s intent — the transformation of the entire world into a dwelling fit for Him.
This is why the Jews were to bring offerings within their own homes in Egypt, for since those offerings took place at the time of the nation’s birth, the purpose of that nationhood had to be stressed — that, through their personal spiritual service, they would have G-d dwelling within each one of them, transforming their individual homes into a dwelling place for G-d.
Once the Mishkan and Beis HaMikdash were built, however, the Paschal offering had to be brought there, for it was there that the highest degree of holiness resided.
Thus, the order of things changed: G-d dwelled in those edifices, and as a result of that indwelling, He came to reside — through the Jews’ service “in them” — within each and every Jew, and within the world as a whole.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXVI, pp. 77-84
1. Shmos 11:4 and commentary of Rashi. See also Berachos 6a.
2. See Zohar Chadosh , beginning of Yisro; Yalkut Reuveni, Shmos 14:27; Zohar, Vol. II, p. 170b.
3. See Or HaTorah, Vayeichaleik Aleihem, ch. 5ff.
4. Mechilta, Shmos 14:31.
5. Tosefta, Pesachim 8:7.
6. Shmos 12:3-4.
7. See Yechezkel 16 and commentaries.
8. Midrash Tanchuma, Naso 16.
9. Shmos 25:8.
10. See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXI, p. 150 and places cited there.
11. See Likkutei Torah, Naso 20b.
12. See Shabbos 63a.
13. See Midrash Tanchuma, Tetzaveh 6; Vayikra Rabbah 31:7.