Up for Debate

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This module contains one key debate amongst the various classical commentaries of Chumash. 


Verse 12:13 tells us 

וְרָאִ֙יתִי֙ אֶת־הַדָּ֔ם וּפָסַחְתִּ֖י עֲלֵכֶ֑ם וְלֹֽא־יִֽהְיֶ֨ה בָכֶ֥ם נֶ֙גֶף֙ לְמַשְׁחִ֔ית בְּהַכֹּתִ֖י בְּאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃

I see the blood I will “pasach” you, so that no plague will destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.


God tells the Jews that he will “pasach” them and they will be safe when he smites the firstborn of Egypt. It is from here that the holiday Pesach gets its name. But what does the verb “pasach” mean?


Onkelos translates the verse as “I will have compassion on you”.  Onkelos says that the holiday of Pesach should be translated as the holiday of compassion. We celebrate the mercy of God and try to use our experiences as slaves to be more merciful ourselves. Rashi reaslates the verse as “I will pass over you”.  This is the origin of the more commonly accepted name of the holiday, Passover. Rashi thinks we are celebrating God distinguishing us as unique among the other nations, chosen for a unique role as God’s people.