In Parshas Bo, situated between the final plagues levied upon the people of Egypt, the Jewish people are given specific mitzvos to follow. The first is to set a calendar for themselves, and sanctify their time. Rabbi Soloveitchik, among others, note that this was of paramount importance for the Jewish nation on the brink of leaving Egypt as a free people. For the previous generations they were slaves whose time belonged not to them, but to their masters, and at the precipice of Yetzias Mitzrayim, Bnai Yisrael needed to be able to sanctify their time once it became theirs once again. Immediately after this mitzvah, the Jews are given another: to take a sheep for each of their households on the tenth day of this month (the first of month on their nascent calendar). This young, unblemished animal was to be used as the Korban Pesach, and the protocol for what is supposed to take place is delineated in these verses.
We know that the Korban Pesach is to be eaten on the 14th of that month, a full four days after Bnai Yisrael were commanded to bring it into their midst. This seems a bit puzzling. What else were the Jewish people doing at this time that they needed this vast amount of time to check their sheep? This is a task that could’ve taken an hour or two, maybe a whole day if one were to really search thoroughly, yet Bnai Yisrael are given much more time than that.
It’s understandable that the Jewish people would need to exert great care in this mitzvah. They were a broken people, racked with years of harsh labor. They knew no other way of life. They had been surrounded by idol worshipping Egyptians, as well as members of their own communities. This was their first real foray into mitzvah observance. I believe their lengthy amount of time to ready themselves and scrutinize the animal they’ve been told to keep safe is to guide the Jewish people into an ultimate existence of strong Mitzvah observance. This idea is evident as Paro tries to outsmart the burgeoning Jewish population in Egypt. He commands the Jews to perform backbreaking work, befarech in Hebrew. The Midrash plays on that word and writes that Paro dealt with them b’peh rach, by speaking softly to them to be eased into this work. The transformation that they were about to undergo at the hands of God would bring about a new way of life for them, and in order for it to be success, they had a significant amount of time to do their first task.
I heard a second perspective on this event from a friend of mine who is a tremendous marbitz Torah and anav, that he explained from Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser. This entire episode showcases to us chashivus hamitzvos, the importance of the mitzvos we are doing. The Jewish people are given four days to make sure that no part of their sheep is impure. It’s holy work that needs to be done with great, meticulous care. This message is one that we should strive to implement in our daily lives. Nowadays, we have no Korban Pesach to bring on the night of the Seder, but we have a plethora of mitzvos that have been commanded to us by the Almighty. We cannot robotically seek to fulfill them as if we’re working on crossing off items on our to-do list. We are set to do the mitzvos anyway: why not do them correctly?
Bnai Yisrael ultimately saw a momentous yeshuah as they were redeemed from slavery in Egypt by God. May we be privy to a similar salvation, bimheira beyameinu.