Few people would feel comfortable eating a meal while holding a stick in one hand, their belt fastened tightly, wearing shoes instead of house slippers and being told to finish eating the delicious grilled steak as quickly as possible. That’s certainly not the way to enjoy a meal. Quite a strange requirement, isn’t it?
Yet those were the orders given to the Bnei Yisroel on the night before they were to depart from Egypt. They would have to leave in a very big hurry and there would be little time to properly prepare for departure the next morning.
Yet, this commandment seems very strange indeed. We all know that the Yidden had to remain in their homes all night and weren’t permitted to leave until morning. How long does it actually take a person to grab his stick, put on his shoes and fasten his belt? Not more than a minute or two even if you’re not an Olympic champion. Then why eat the korbon Pesach in such an uncomfortable setting? Take it easy, relax, and eat the delicious roast slowly so that it gets digested properly. You’ve got all night to enjoy it so why eat it so very quickly? What’s the big hurry? What’s the big rush? They had a long night ahead of them. They couldn’t leave till the next morning anyway so they might as well enjoy the delicious meal of Pesach , Matzo, and Moror before going on the long journey. Besides, it’s not all that easy holding a stick in one hand and eating the Pesach-Matzoh-Maror in the other. Even when eating the korach sandwich of Matzo and Moror alone, we usually use both hands. At least that’s the way I do it.
Certainly the requirement wasn’t just a charade! It was a Mitzvah but why? What’s the reason? What’s the purpose?
Perhaps we can answer it with the following story:
A prisoner that had spent his entire life languishing in a Russian prison located deep in Siberia was suddenly informed by the prison commander that he would soon be freed. One can just imagine the prisoner’s great joy and elation on learning this fantastic news. He started making preparations and waited impatiently for the day that he would finally be let out from the dreadful prison. Just imagine his great letdown when after a month he was informed that it was all a mistake and that it had been decided that he would not be released. All his hopes were now dashed and he felt even worse than before. He had been riding on a high and now all his dreams were shattered.
A short time later he was again informed that the ruling had been overturned and it was decided that he would indeed be released very shortly. His joy and happiness knew no bounds as he waited impatiently for the great day of freedom to arrive. A few days passed by and to his great dismay he received word that it was all a mistake and under no circumstances would he be released from prison. All his hopes were shattered and he now felt worse than ever before. He fell into a terrible state of depression because of his great disenchantment.
Another month passed and once again he received word that things had suddenly changed for the better and he would in fact be freed very soon. His spirits soared as he hoped that this time it would be for real, and that nothing would change like the first two times.
Can you imagine his terrible letdown when he was notified a few days later that his release had been rescinded? His mood and spirits collapsed completely as all his great hopes lay crumbled before him.
Time and time again the above process was repeated until he realized that all the commander’s promises were totally worthless and he simply refused to believe anything he was told. He realized that the promises were nothing but a hoax and no more then a balloon filled with lots of hot air. And so after having been lied to nine times he finally lost all hope of ever being freed. And so when the commander came along for the tenth time now and told him that he was to be released the very next day, he simply didn’t even bother listening to what he had to say. He had gone through so many disappointments and false alarms that he refused to believe anything anymore. He was sure that this was only being done in order to torture him and make his life even more miserable.
The only way the prisoner was convinced that this time he was actually being released from prison was when they made him a big party and gave him a beautiful set of new clothes in exchange for his old prison clothes and told him that he has to eat the food real fast because any minute the wagon will come to pick him up. Only now was he convinced that this time it was all for real and that it wasn’t another hoax.
The moshol is quite simple. Again and again Pharaoh had promised Moshe and Aaron that as soon as the mako would stop he would allow the yidden to leave. Yet his promises turned to naught. By the tenth time there were few people who actually believed him. They had suffered disappointment after disappointment and refused to believe that Pharaoh had now learned his lesson. Their spirits had gone up and down so many times that it was difficult for them to believe that this time it was for real.
It was only when they now roasted the Egyptian avodah zorah, a delicacy they had never dared roast before, eating it quickly with their belts fastened, a stick in their hand, and wearing their shoes, that they were convinced that now things were really going to happen. The Egyptian god was now totaly destroyed. This time they were truly going to be let out. This time they would finally get their promised freedom.
Yes! After spending 210 years in Mitzrayim with repeated broken promises, the Yidden’s hopes of ever leaving were quite dim. They still could not accept their new reality with utmost conviction. They still had their well-deserved doubts. Maybe Pharaoh would still need a few more makos until he would be convinced to let them out. The first nine makos had left him stubborn as a mule. Maybe this mako would make him even more stubborn. In fact, he had become so outraged that he broke off all negotiations with Moshe completely. He didn’t want to see him ever again!
And so even as the Yidden sat and ate their Pesach-Matzoh – Moror, some still may have had their doubts and reservations. Pharaoh shouted, “Get out! Get out! You are free! You are free!” But maybe by the next morning when things will have quieted and settled down a bit he’ll have a change of mind as he usually had? He wasn’t known for his great integrity. His promises weren’t worth the paper they were written on. It could all turn out to be another false alarm!
Hashem therefore instructed them to eat the Korban in this very unusual manner so that they would actually already feel free that very night even though they were still in Mitzrayim. Once a prisoner knows for sure that he can leave the prison anytime he wishes to, then for all practical purposes he no longer feels like he is in prison even though he may still be behind bars. Only by “tightening their belts, holding their sticks, wearing their shoes, and eating the meal very quickly” would they actually be put in the proper state and frame of mind and be fully convinced that their moment of freedom had finally arrived! They now felt fully confident that this time there would be no backing out. Their long bitter golus had finally ended! They were now free to leave anytime they wished! And so for all intents and purposes they were already free. Free in spirit and free in mind!