Thoughts on Pesach 5778

Pesach 2016The Pesach reading for this Shabbat is Exodus 12:21-51[i] and Numbers 28:19-25; the Haftarah is from Joshua 5:2 – 6:1 and 27. After weeks of preparation we are entering into the culmination of our labors as Pesach/Unleavened Bread are almost upon us. Friday evening, we celebrate the entrance of Shabbat, as well as participate in the annual celebration of the Exodus from Egypt, in which we and all of our ancestors through the epochs of history were delivered by the mighty, outstretched arm of Adonai.

It is a night of anticipation for the Lord, to take them out of the land of Egypt; this night is the Lord’s, guarding all the children of Israel throughout their generations. (Exodus 12:42)

It is important to understand the last half of the verse above. The full scope of the power and authority of Adonai did not simply deliver Jacob’s descendants from Egyptian bondage, His action that night “is the Lord’s, guarding all the children of Israel throughout their generations.” The prophet Jeremiah records this declaration from HaShem,

So said the Lord, Who gives the sun to illuminate by day, the laws of the moon and the stars to illuminate at night, Who stirs up the sea and its waves roar, the Lord of Hosts is His name. If these laws depart from before Me, says the Lord, so will the seed of Israel cease being a nation before Me for all time. (Jeremiah 31:34-35)

So long as the earth and the universe remain, the Lord continues to watch over and guard Israel. In the Emet section of the Kriyat Shema, at עֶזְרַת, we read, “You (HaShem) have always been the help of our ancestors, Shield and Savior of their children after them in every generation.”[ii]

We commemorate the Exodus with the reading of the Hagaddah, which in fact tells the story of the Jewish people from their beginning with HaShem’s calling Abraham through the deliverance from Pharaoh, and the crossing of the Reed Sea. “When we tell the story of our redemption from the beginning, incorporating the suffering into our narrative, we make the telling real. … The Haggadah reminds us of the ways in which our history still marks us, how everything we’ve endured still shapes us, our feelings, and our perceptions.”[iii] Remembering the good and the bad, and HaShem’s presence with us throughout the experience, serves to remind us that just as He was with our forefathers (and foremothers of course) so He is with us today in each and every situation in which we find ourselves. And, as He cared for Israel in the past, He continues to care for Israel and each of us to this very day.

This week-end is also special for those who follow the Gregorian calendar as Friday is so called “Good Friday” the day of remembering Yeshua’s crucifixion for the propitiation or atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world, (1 John 2:2).[iv] Sometime between Motzei Shabbat and Sunday on the first day of the Omer, Yeshua rose victorious from death and the grave (Mark 16:9). Therefore, as followers of Messiah Yeshua, we enter into the Moadim of Pesach/Unleavened Bread with the understanding that not only were we delivered from the bondage of Egypt, but we were also delivered from spiritual bondage. Just as we have cleaned our physical houses of the hametz (leaven), Rav Shaul declares that we should clean our inner man as well.

Get rid of the old hametz, so you may be a new batch, just as you are unleavened – for Messiah, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the feast not with old hametz, the hametz of malice and wickedness, but with unleavened bread—the matzah of sincerity and truth. (I Corinthians 5:7-8)

It is important to realize that like Israel must decide to actively clear away all leaven (hametz) from their houses (Exodus 12:15), Rav Shaul indicates that the process of “getting rid of old hametz” is an action that we must decide to do. Just as the physical hametz does not simply disappear miraculously but requires a choice to remove it and then actually removing it, so too with the cleansing of hametz of malice and wickedness; their removal requires a choice to do it, and then doing it.  James admonishes that when we draw near to HaShem, we are to cleanse our hands and purify our hearts (James 4:8). May we all take advantage of this time of year to cleanse our lives of all hametz.

Pesach Sameach

[i] Unless otherwise noted, Tanakh references are from The Complete Tanach with Rashi Commentary,

[ii] Shacharit for Weekdays, The Koren Siddur, Jerusalem, Koren Publishers, 2009, p 104

[iii] Telling the Real Story, Hadar, Pesach e-letter.

[iv] Besorah readings are from Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Snellville, Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society, 2015.


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