By Rabbi Shlomy Levertov

Chutzpah has been around for a while. The term has even made its way into the English dictionary and is loosely defined as “confidence or courage that allows someone to do or say things that may seem shocking.” We see many examples of chutzpah during the Exodus and the days after. Although the Jews were just freed from slavery, they had the audacity to complain to G‑d about the food, and to even go so far as to attempt to create a golden calf.

Although, traditionally, chutzpah carries a bad connotation, in this week’s Torah portion we find a different type of chutzpah. Moses instructs the Jewish people regarding the details of the first Passover offering: “On the 10th of this month, let each one take a lamb … And you shall keep it for inspection until the 14th day of this month … and slaughter it in the afternoon.”

Now, that’s an interesting commandment. The Jewish people were commanded to take a lamb into their homes for four days. For what purpose?

The Jewish people were influenced by the idol worship and immoralities of their Egyptian neighbors. Many Jews even served idols together with the Egyptians. G‑d wanted them to do something to prove that they were no longer looking to assimilate into the Egyptian culture and were ready to join and serve Him at Mount Sinai. Taking a lamb, the Egyptians’ deity, into their homes, with the intention of sacrificing to G‑d, was sure to be noticed by the Egyptians. It was extremely likely that they would be infuriated by the complete and total disregard for their god. Taking the Passover lamb into their homes was a commandment that took lots of courage and pure chutzpah, proving their renewed devotion to G‑d and their desertion of the Egyptian culture and lifestyle.

To be sure that this chutzpah was authentic, G‑d added a twist: “And you shall keep it for inspection until the 14th day of this month.” G‑d didn’t want the Jews to just bring it into their home for one or two days. No, let this lamb run around their house for four complete days!

G‑d didn’t want this act of chutzpah to be an impulsive one. He wanted the Jews to have time to think about what they were going to do and get comfortable with the statement they were about to make. Four days gave ample time for everything to sink in and for them to become fully cognizant of the consequences their actions might have. At the end of the four days, the Jewish people were just as excited and committed to follow through with sacrificing the lamb even though they were well aware of the chutzpah involved. (When G‑d tested Avraham with sacrificing his own son, He showed Avraham the spot of where the Akaida was going to take place on the fourth day after the initial commandment. This was for the same reason. No one can claim that Avraham acted on impulse, without having proper time to think it through.)

Our sages tell us that this act of chutzpah that the Jews in Egypt performed, standing up for their beliefs in a time and place where it wasn’t popular, was the merit that made the Jewish people worthy of being redeemed. Let us use the example set by our ancestors to inspire us to have the proper chutzpah and Jewish pride to live and act according to our Jewish values. Through this chutzpah, may we merit the final redemption.

Rabbi Shlomy Levertov is the director of Chabad of Paradise Valley and jPhoenix – Young Jewish Professionals.

Posted in the Jewish News.