R’ S.R. Hirsch points out that the Chapter 12 of Shemot, the instructions regarding the Korban Pesach, marks the first time that the term ‘Edah’ is used to describe a group of people. In fact, the term is used several times throughout that chapter.
I had been wondering about that term. After writing the posts of earlier in the week, about Pesach and narrative, I wondered, before seeing this R’ Hirsch quoted, about the use of the term ‘Edah’. This term is clearly a derivative of ‘Eid’, or testimony, which itself might be related to ‘od’ – continuity. The job of a witness is to make the past current (I saw this in the BDB Biblical Lexicon). Similarly, the role of an Edah is to perpetuate a given memory, to collectively stand witness to certain events.
In this sense, then, the Israelites were constituted as an Edah from the outset; the very first Pesach, the Israelites were enjoined to bear witness to the events that were befalling them. Thus, at the very moment of our birth, the obligation to create and transmit a collective memory was central to our group identity.