Thursday, April 2, 2015

Pesach - First Day of Passover (Exodus 12:21-51)

The First Day of Passover reading is Exodus 12:21-51. 
My focus is on Ex 12:21-28, Ex 12:43-49.
This Torah reading starts off with Moses calling the elders of Israel and instructing them to select, take, and slaughter the Passover lamb (which could be a sheep or a goat, but had to be without defect and had to be a male in its first year (Ex 12:5)). And then they were to take hyssop, dipped in the Passover lamb’s blood, and put the blood around the lintel and the two doorposts, and remain in their homes until morning. This was a protection (see Isaiah 31:5) and a covering for the children of Israel, to differentiate them from the Egyptians, and protected them from receiving the Plague of the Firstborn. This is the plague whereby all Egyptian firstborns, man and beast were killed.

Could God not have found another way to differentiate the Israelites from the Egyptians? I am certain He could have, however, He required obedience and faith from His people. This was the moment where God was going to absolutely distinguish Himself from all of the Egyptian gods (small “g”). Certainly, HaShem was not simply showing Himself to the Egyptians at this point, but also making it absolutely clear to the Israelites as well, so that they knew who it was that they served.

The blood that was put on the doorposts was actually the blood of a false Egyptian god (small “g”) and thus it was highly unlikely that any Egyptian would also place this blood on their own doorposts, even if they wondered what it was that the Israelites were doing.

Egyptians engaged in star worship and the Zodiac sign for the month of Nisan (the first month of the year) was Aries, the ram, which would have been represented by sheep. The full moon observed during Passover would have been the height of the month for the Egyptians (and thus, theoretically, “Aries” would be at “full power”). HaShem truly was putting His stamp on events and ensuring that everyone, Egyptian and Israelite alike, knew that He and He alone was and is God. Rambam in “The Guide for the Perplexed” states “Scripture tells us, according to the Version of Onkelos (Onkelos was a famous convert to Judaism who lived 35-120 CE), that the Egyptians worshipped Aries, and therefore abstained from killing sheep, and held shepherds in contempt. (Ex 8:26, Gen 46:34) … Some sects among the Sabeans worshipped demons, and imagined that these assumed the form of goats, and called them therefore “goats” This worship was widespread. (Lev 17:7)…. (Rambam continues) “Thus the very act which is considered by the heathen as the greatest crime, is the means of approaching God, and obtaining His pardon for our sins. In this manner, evil principles, the diseases of the human soul, are cured by other principles which are diametrically opposite. This is also the reason why we were commanded to kill a lamb on Passover, and to sprinkle the blood thereof outside on the gates…. Thus they were rewarded for performing openly a service every part of which was objected to by the idolaters.”

The Lord then instructs the Israelites that they and their children will “observe this thing for an ordinance for ever” even when they enter the Land, that it is to be kept and observed forever (Ex 12:24-25). They are to teach their children about the passover and about how “the Lord passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when He smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses” (Ex 12:27). “And the children of Israel went and did so; as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they.” (Ex 12:28 and Ex 12:50) This was important enough to be repeated twice. The Israelites were at this time obedient to the Lord and went and did His word, they followed His instruction and did as He had commanded through Moses and Aaron. This denoted action on their part, like the action of putting the blood around the lintel and the doorposts, they had to act in faith in order to be saved.

As we celebrate Pesach and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, we must remember that it is a personal story that applies to each one of us. Have we removed all of the chametz from our homes and our hearts? Have we applied the blood to our doorposts? Do we have any idols in our lives that we need to deal with and slay? Are we committed and ready to draw near for another year?

And the LORD said unto Moses and Aaron: 'This is the ordinance of the passover: there shall no alien eat thereof; but every man's servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof.” (Ex 12:43-44) “All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land; but no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof. One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.” (Ex 12:47-49)

To me, this year, with this being the first year I am personally observing Pesach, this was what stood out to me: “no alien shall eat thereof”, “no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof', “one law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you”. To me, it seems as though this is the annual observance of the renewal of the covenant. Yeshua, at the last supper, on Pesach, says to his disciples “for this is my blood of the Covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). “And He (Yeshua) took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them (His disciples), saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:19-20). So, here we have, on the anniversary of the day that the children of Israel were to keep the passover, a new anniversary. A command to remember annually the renewed covenant and Yeshua's blood poured out for “many”. This is a time to renew your commitment. And Jews around the world ask themselves on this evening, “Are you in or are you out?”.

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