In this week's Torah reading, G‑d gives Moses the commandment: Sanctify to Me every firstborn, the one who opens every womb of the Israelites, of man and animal; it is Mine. (Ex. 13:2) This is followed by the verse: And Moses said to the people, "Remember the day on which you went out from Egypt, from the house of slaves, for G‑d took you out of here with a strong hand, and leaven shall not be eaten." (ibid. 13:3)

We should be very surprised regarding this passage, for G‑d commanded [Moses], "Sanctify to Me every firstborn", but Moses neglected to convey this commandment to the Israelites after he heard it. Instead, he gave them a different commandment, as it is written, "And Moses said to the people, 'Remember the day on which you went out from Egypt….'" Later, in the passage that begins "And it will be, when He brings you in…", (ibid. 13:11-16) he returns [to this commandment] and tells them: "…you will transfer every one that opens the womb to G‑d…." (ibid. 13:12)

After reporting that G‑d gave this commandment to Moses, the Torah reports that Moses gave the Israelites instructions concerning the observance of Passover and the commandment of tefilin. Only after this, in the next passage, does Moses instruct them about the firstborn.

The reason for this is - as we have explained previously, on the verse, "And a new king arose…" (Ex. 1:8) - that [the souls of] the Mixed Multitude are sparks of the souls [that were produced by] the wasted seed of Adam, [which he produced] during the 130 years [after his sin, in which he separated from Eve].

Moses…was actually planning to rectify the lost souls that had been produced in consequence of Adam's sins….

When the Israelites left Egypt, a "Mixed Multitude" of non-Jews accompanied them (ibid. 12:38) which Moses intended to convert. We see here that he was actually planning to rectify the lost souls that had been produced in consequence of Adam's sins.

[These sparks] had not yet been rectified. Since they originated in the daat of yesod of Abba, which was personified by Moses, he made great efforts to rectify them and bring them out of Egypt, as is mentioned there at length.

This, however, was not G‑d's intention, for they were not fit for this. G‑d therefore commanded him, "Sanctify to Me every firstborn, the one who opens every womb of the Israelites," for they also originate in this supernal daat, which is termed "the firstborn". The [spiritual] blemish caused by the sin of wasting seed reaches [up] to this level, as is known.

The essence of daat is connection, which is why the word "knowledge" is used to refer to marital relations. Although the sin of wasting seed occurs at the level of yesod, it causes a blemish in daat, since it results from the individual being focused on things he should not be focused on.

Thus, the souls of the Mixed Multitude were blemished in this regard, being the results of Adam's misuse of his daat. Inasmuch as Moses personified the holy daat, the proper focus and consciousness in life, he knew that he was uniquely suited to rectify them. (Presumably, this daat is termed "firstborn" since it is the daat of yesod of Abba, and chochma is often termed the "firstborn" inasmuch as it is the first conscious sefira to emerge from the womb of the pre-conscious keter, i.e. from faith, delight, and will.)

Therefore, of the Israelites, who were already rectified of this [G‑d told Moses] 'Sanctify Me every firstborn' of theirs, but not the firstborn of the Mixed Multitude, who are not yet rectified and not yet worthy of this commandment.

Moses saw that if now, at the beginning of G‑d's giving of the commandments - this being the first of them after that of the rites and festival of Passover - he would immediately tell them about this commandment, and the Mixed Multitude would hear the words "Sanctify Me every firstborn…of the Israelites" (and not of the Mixed Multitude), they would throw off the yoke [of the commandments] and revert to their former [idolatrous] ways, seeing that they are of lower status.

[This is] especially so since, [we must remember,] the Jews had not yet left Egypt. It is written, "And G‑d did not take them [out of Egypt by the way of the Philistines] for it was close, for G‑d said, 'Lest the people relent [when they see war] and return to Egypt.'" (ibid.13:17) The words "the people" in this verse refer to the Mixed Multitude. All the more so was this a concern at this point, when they were still at home. As we see later, when the Mixed Multitude saw the pillar of cloud traveling in front of the Israelites and not in front of them, they said, "Arise, make us gods that will go before us," as taught in the Zohar. (II:191b) [This was the incident of the Golden Calf.]

Thus, Moses was justified in taking the reaction of the Mixed Multitude into consideration, for we see that G‑d also took it into consideration when choosing the escape route from Egypt, and that their resentment of their secondary status precipitated the sin of the Golden Calf.

Thus, since it was Moses' goal to bring them under the wings of the Divine Presence, and that they should not rebel against G‑d, he therefore began by teaching [the Mixed Multitude] the commandment not to eat leaven on Passover, which begins, "Remember the day on which you went out from Egypt," and is a commandment that includes both the Israelites and them. Also, this explains why it is written [immediately before this], "And Moses said to the people…," for this means the Mixed Multitude. This is also why this passage is couched in the plural: "…on which you went out from Egypt"; "Today you are going out…." (Ex. 13:4)

The words "you" in these verses is in this word's plural form, referring to the Mixed Multitude.

Indeed, [the first of these verses] continues: "…from the house of slaves", meaning, "you have left Egypt, which is called 'a house of slaves' because the Jews were enslaved there, although you were not enslaved there." The Torah therefore does not use the idiom "from being slaves", but rather, "from the house of slaves".

Rabbi Shmuel Vital (Rabbi Chaim Vital's son) notes here: This is explained also by the fact that our sages say that the Egyptians were called "slaves" since they were descendants of Ham, who was called a slave. (Therefore, "the house of slaves" means simply "Egypt.")

This is also alluded to by the words, "[for G‑d took you out of here] with a strong hand…", for the demonstration of G‑d's strong hand was necessary not for the Jews but for them, as it is written, "…[in order to show you My power] and in order to tell of My Name in all the world." (ibid. 9:16)

These words were spoken to Pharaoh.

Were it not for [the demonstration of] the power of G‑d's hand, Pharaoh would not have let [the Mixed Multitude] go. Whereas with regard to the Jews, Pharaoh did not care that much, and Moses had a legitimate claim: "Send forth My children so they can serve Me." It was therefore not necessary [for G‑d] to demonstrate [the power of] His mighty hand [to convince Pharaoh to release them]. But as for the Mixed Multitude, who were Egyptians just like Pharaoh, were it not for the demonstration of G‑d's power, Pharaoh would not have released them. This is why the Torah says, "for G‑d took you out of here with a strong hand…", and not "[for G‑d took] Israel…."

The Mixed Multitude became convinced thereby that the Holy One, blessed be He, loves them….

Since this is the case, [i.e. since G‑d brought both the Jews and the Mixed Multitude out of Egypt], "…leaven shall not be eaten," i.e. neither by you nor by the Jews.

Now, after [Moses] eased them with these words, the Mixed Multitude became convinced thereby that the Holy One, blessed be He, loves them.

He then apologized [to them] regarding what he was about to do, that is, the commandment regarding the firstborn. This is the sense of the following verse, "This day you [pl.]are leaving, in the month of the spring." (ibid. 13:4) It introduces the following passages, and is as if to say, "Look, I gave you and the Jews one commandment in which you are both equal, for the reasons mentioned. Now, I want to give the Jews a private commandment, in which you have no part. But this is not because of any lack in G‑d's great love for you, for in the first commandment you [and the Jews] were all equal, as mentioned. The reason is just that you have no obligation in this commandment, because you - the Mixed Multitude - are leaving by day, and not at midnight as the Jews did." As it is written, "And Pharaoh arose at night[and called for Moses and Aaron that night, saying 'Arise, get out from amongst my people, both you and the Israelites…]." (ibid. 12:30-31) This was after the smiting of the firstborn of the Egyptians, and in recognition of this the Jews became obligated to consecrate their firstborn, who caused them to leave Egypt at midnight, when the smiting of the [Egyptian] firstborn [occurred].

The Jews…left at midnight when the firstborn of Egypt were killed, and not..the Mixed Multitude, who left...during the day….

[Moses continued to the Mixed Multitude:] "But you are leaving by day, not by night, and thus you are exempt from this commandment I am about to transmit."

After he eased their minds, he turned to the Jews, and addressed them in the singular, for "Israel is a nation of oneness on earth." (Samuel II 7:23) As it is written, "[And it will be] when He brings you in…," in the singular, [and so is] the entire passage written. [In effect,] he said to [the Jews]: "I have already given the Mixed Multitude the commandment not to eat leaven; I will now give you this commandment, as well. The reason I did not address you and them together is because the reason [you perform this commandment] is not the same for both of you. The reason they observe it is, as said above, because [G‑d took them out] with a strong hand. But the reason you observe it is different: You shall tell your child [on that day, saying,] 'It is because G‑d did this [i.e. freed me] for me, when I left Egypt, and not for the Mixed Multitude, for they were not enslaved as I was, [that I do not eat leaven on Passover]. Therefore, [my observance of this commandment] is because of my exodus from Egypt.'" As it is written, "when I left Egypt."

After [Moses] equated both [the Jews and the Mixed Multitude] in the performance of this commandment [although the reasons they observe it are different], and the minds of both were eased, he addressed the commandment of "Sanctify Me every firstborn" to the Jews alone, in the singular. [As it is written,] "And it will be, when He brings you in…", (Ex. 13:11) "…you will transfer every one that opens the womb to G‑d…", (ibid. 13:12) "…And it was, when Pharaoh was obstinate in letting us go…." (ibid. 13:15)

The word for "you" in these verses is in its singular form.

This reason applies only to the Jews, who left at midnight when the firstborn of Egypt were killed, and not to the Mixed Multitude, who left later, during the day, as we said above.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Likutei Torah and Sha'ar HaPesukim, parashat Bo; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

Reprinted with permission from Chabad of California. Copyright 2004 by Chabad of California, Inc. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, without permission, in writing, from Chabad of California, Inc.