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In Egypt, prior to Yetzias Mitzrayim (the Exodus), was the mitzvah of placing the blood of the korban Pesach on the doorposts applicable to all the doorways of the house or only on one of the doorways?

Was it like the mitzvah of mezuzah where each doorway requires a mezuzah, or was it like the mitzvah of Chanukah where one places only one menorah per house (ignoring possible issue of maris ayin)?

(asked by my 8 year old son)

  • Did their houses have more than one door? A little Googling suggests maybe not, but I haven't found anything with scholarly citations yet. – Monica Cellio May 13 '16 at 13:22
  • @MonicaCellio I suspect that most of them did not. We think of our houses as full of rooms, but Halakhically speaking really we might all live in 'apartment complexes' full of many 'houses'. Multiple rooms is a luxury. – Double AA May 13 '16 at 16:22
  • Even if they had multiple rooms (some info I found suggested that four-room houses weren't unusual), it looks like they might have had only one exterior door, and it's the exterior door(s?) that had the blood placed on them. I might need to ask a question (maybe on History?) to find out about ancient Egyptian housing for slaves. – Monica Cellio May 13 '16 at 16:25
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This is my own reasoning; I don't have rabbinic sources.

It appears that at the time Israel was in Egypt, the typical dwelling was the four-room house, which had the following layout for the ground floor:

house layout

While multiple rooms means interior passages, there appears to be only one exterior doorway. The following photo from an archaeological site of the right time period supports this interpretation:

archaeological photo

(Photo taken from this article. The site is at Medinet Habu. I count more than four rooms, but still only one outside doorway.)

The purpose of putting the blood on the doorposts and lintel, we are told in Sh'mot 12, is:

And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and there shall no plague be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.

That sure sounds to me like it's talking about exterior doors only -- the doors through which the destroyer would enter. Since there was apparently only one such door, they would have applied the blood of the korban pesach to just that one door.

  • Couldn't the same logic be used to say Mezuzot should only be attached to the front door? – Double AA May 15 '16 at 4:50
  • @DoubleAA we aren't given a reason for mezuzot, just "on your doorposts". And if the mezuzah is for us (to remind us of what's within and what it means), that would be a reason to place them on interior doors too so we'll see them more often. – Monica Cellio May 15 '16 at 4:58
  • Thank you for the archeological perspective. But it does not actually answer the question whether a house with 2 doors would have required blood around both or only one door. – Yoni May 15 '16 at 14:50
  • @Yoni It doesn't provide a biblical answer, but it does provide a logical one - if it's about setting up a sign/block/shield/whatever to prevent entry by a harmful force, it would logically require placement everywhere such entry was a possibility - all exterior doors. One might argue that since it's a question of "seeing" the blood, then any entries that are simultaneously visible (an L shaped house) might be covered by one application... – Isaac Kotlicky May 16 '16 at 19:17

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