"You never get a second chance to make a first impression."
We all know that line. More than we even realize, we are bringing people closer or pushing them away with that first line, our facial expression or our body language. First impressions aren't only when you meet someone new. Every encounter we have has its own first impression. It sets the tone for our conversations and gives off positive or negative vibes to the people around us.
Ever wonder what was the very first impression God hoped to give the Jewish people about the Torah? What was the very first commandment the Jewish people would fulfill as a nation, setting the tone for their entire relationship with the Almighty?
In this week's Torah portion, immediately after God informs Moshe about establishing the cycle of holidays around the new moon, he sends Moshe on a mission to tell the Jewish nation about the first mitzvah they would actually implement:
Speak to the entire assembly of Israel saying: On the tenth of this month they shall take for themselves a lamb for each family, a lamb for the household. But if the house will be too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor shall take according to the number of people. (Shmot 12:3-4)
I find this paragraph beautiful. Do you?
On the 15th of the Jewish month of Nissan, the Jewish people would be sitting down to their very first meal as a free nation after two centuries of slavery. They would be expressing their freedom by dining on the Pascal lamb, a delicacy they certainly didn't enjoy in all the years they were enslaved. But five days before that that they would begin tasting the freedom by fulfilling this very first and very important commandment. They would be required to reach out to their families and friends and start making dinner arrangements for this momentous occasion.
How much is everyone going to eat? Who will we be invited to join us on this special night? How well done does everyone like their lamb chops? These were the very first questions our ancestors were asking themselves in anticipation of fulfilling their very first commandment. (I guess we know where Jewish mothers get it from!) This was the first impression the Almighty wanted to give the Jewish nation of what the Torah is about - of what freedom is about - family, friends and community!
The importance of community is something that has been with us since the very first moments of our nationhood. We have stayed strong as a people in many situations because Jewish life has always been community-focused. Our communities are the ones that celebrate with us during happy times, that support us through the difficult times and that challenge us to be greater people. Our communities inspire us to care for others, to expand and include others in our lives and, as our great-great grandparents learned in those final days in Egypt, how to be truly free!