Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Special Pesach Message Sh’mot (Exodus 12:21-51)
We will start with an analysis of three aspects of Pesach according to the Jewish commentator Ol’ot Ephraim, as they apply to our condition today and during the time of the first Exodus. I added Messianic Jewish concepts to provide a more complete understanding of the “big picture” that includes Yahshua and the B’rit Chadashah. This message is equally applicable from the first day of Pesach to the last day of the feast of Unleavened Bread and beyond. Grouping these important biblical concepts by “ingredient” may help us to remember to apply them to our lives on a perpetual basis.
Matzah used for the seven days of Pesach including the Feast of Unleavened Bread (7 in Israel and 8 outside Israel) is made from flour and water. Flour requires the hand of man to create it, and water is all natural. Together, they become united to make a very simple staple. Although man and water was provided in the desert to sustain the people physically, Yahshua makes it very clear that we are not sustained by physical bread or (food) alone. We read in Matthew 4:4 “Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of Adonai.” Notice He does not say some of the words, or whichever words you choose to add or subtract, or except for the Old Testament. Yahshua says every word! There are some who may take this to mean every word in every translation is inspired by G-d. However, this is not so. We must remember the entire Bible was written in Hebrew (yes, we can prove this scientifically) with some words in Greek and Aramaic. Therefore, Yahshua’s statement must be understood in context. The original manuscripts contain the written Word of G-d that sustains us if we will but partake of it and depend upon it as our GPS (road guide through life). Conversely, chametz contains many ingredients, some of which catalyzes the “puffing up” we see in the product. The different ingredients may be interpreted as different opinions, religions, agendas, etc., that can lead to fragmentation, dissent, and turmoil. We see an example of this when some people walk into an office or synagogue for the first time and verbally promote their opinions and agendas without any desire to study or learn scripture. It does not take long to see through these individuals and discern their plans to fragment a congregation and promote themselves, puffing up their egos as chametz. The command for us to eliminate ALL chametz is a blunt reminder that we are to examine ourselves from the inside out and pray that G-d will help us to remove everything and anything that promotes inflating ourselves over G-d’s Torah. Close scrutiny of our ingredients will reveal our personal chametz. The Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) will further conduct inventory and reveal what we cannot see spiritually in our current state of spiritual maturity (Psalm 139:23-4).
Marror represents the pursuit of money and materialism. Indeed, it was the material that held the pagan structures together. Similarly, it is what the Capitalist system is built on. We are just beginning to experience the bitterness that results from attempting to build a civilization and a way of life with such materials (values). The pursuit of money and materialism looks enticing initially. However, when one takes part of it; internalizes it, it becomes bitter. What looks so attractive and seems so reasonable, turns out to be deadly. The bitter herbs remind us of the bitterness of those who are greedy and self-seeking. The Sages in Pirkei Avot say “Who is rich? The one who is happy with his portion.” Our current exile is especially bitter because our world has returned to the days of Noah and Babylon. As a global community we are not happy with our portion. We want more time to fill it with more activities, and more money to spend on things we do not have time for because we are too busy working to pay for them! We no sooner buy an Android or an I-Pad when the next version makes its debut before we’ve paid off our purchase. Bigger screens, more memory, faster communication, etc. There seems to be no end. Thank YHVH/Yahshua; He revealed the difficult but temporary nature of this current spiritual exile and what awaits those described as true believers according to the seven-fold witness in Revelation. It is Yahshua who determines whether we are true believers and G-d in his transcendent form who saves us if we win the race. Those experiencing the exile in geographical Egypt were not given this information and had to trust G-d through Moshe that G-d would deliver them if they followed his instructions. We are to do the same. We must trust G-d through Yahshua (who is Emmanuel [G-d with us]) who will deliver us IF we follow his instructions. This requires no complicated logic or education.
On another plane, marror may represent heartbreak, sorrow, and suffering. Why would a G-d who according to Jewish thought, not only created the world, but intervenes in the affairs of man as evidenced by the Exodus, allow such things? Many philosophers and writers came up with the idea that although G-d created the world, He chooses to have nothing to do with the affairs of the world, or He is not in control. Tinker Melvin, who is a Jew and author of “Why do bad things happen to good people?” subscribes to the second philosophy. His daughter died tragically, and this man could not accept that G-d’s perfect will is beyond our understanding; that G-d does intervene in the affairs of man, and G-d is responsible for our very moment-by-moment existence. Therefore, humanity need not seek G-d’s guidance or assistance since He is no longer involved as the proponents of this theory proclaim. In other words, G-d’s laws of nature work independently of Him, thus producing random effects such as terminally ill children, serial killers, earthquakes and tornadoes, in which G-d cannot intervene. A corollary to this theory is that G-d neither knows nor cares about what happens in our lives. If He did, nothing bad would happen to anyone. This concept is totally contradictory to Jewish thinking and understanding of G-d. For the believer, nothing happens without G-d’s knowledge and intervention every second to continue creating, sustaining, or destroying. Think about it; plants and animals must die to sustain us. A woman must succumb to pain, weight gain, varicose veins, overactive bladders, and self- nullification to give life. Yahshua had to freely choose to die so that we might live. How dare we say G-d is not in charge. It was a bitter cup He drank on that day. Our sufferings are part of our growing process; our ascension toward G-d. Enter the Exodus.
The Children of Israel were slaves to the mightiest dynasty on earth. Remember, hasatan is the prince of the air and has much power on earth. As the Midrash says, no slave escaped from Egypt, surrounded as it was by potent fortifications and daunting deserts. However, in the midst of what seemed impossible conditions, G-d would show the enslavers and the enslaved that He alone is in charge beyond all of Egypt’s magicians, pharaoh, and anything else that attempted to prevent His people from ascending to Him. Ultimate caring; ultimate involvement. As I mention every week, our purpose in this world is to glorify G-d and to make His Name known throughout the universe. Through the Exodus G-d takes command and says, “So this you will know that I am Adonai.” (Ex. 7:17). G-d took the most bitter conditions and included them in the sweetest love story ever told.
Dipping may be interpreted as physical pleasure and passions. In previous exiles, people did not dip their food even once. In this exile, we dip twice. We are steeped in a world culture that glorifies the pursuit of pleasure. The government dips into the resources of others for their own use and the use of special-interest organizations. I dare say they dip more than twice. This is just one example. Money and natural resources are finite as we are now discovering. As we become increasingly enslaved to the government and world culture, those who continue to walk with G-d and learn His ways realize the exile will not last forever. We await with great anticipation the freedom promised by the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. May it be soon and in our lifetime! Speaking of freedom, let us now look at some literal Hebrew that will provide more insight into the importance of this time.
Pesach is a mandated festival (Exodus 13:10; Lev. 23:5-8). If we consider ourselves true believers and lovers of G-d, we cannot simply choose to “sit this one out.” Pesach represents deliverance and freedom from physical and spiritual bondage for those who follow G-d’s Torah. Such freedom IS conditional, and the “house rules” are clearly states throughout the Old and “New” Testaments. Freedom means having the ability to grow and develop. Ironically, people in the United States have a very distorted perception of freedom. For example, many people believe having a cell phone “frees them up” to go out and do whatever they want. However, people are now slaves to cell phones, so much so that Bluetooth was invented to free up the hands that are now busy using an I-pad to take notes from the message on the cell phone! Real freedom in this venue would be to toss the Bluetooth and the cell phone! Slavery is a non-thinking action; a rote behaviour. Have you ever seen someone with the Bluetooth in place? You cannot discern whether the person is taking to you, or if they are answering a call. There is total disconnect involving a device meant to keep us connected! Our goal on Pesach is to recall our Paschal Lamb’s sacrifice for our deliverance from slavery to freedom. This concept is repeated in Revelation 18:4 “My people come out of her! So that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not be infected by her plagues, for her sins are a sticky mass piled up in the heaven, and G-d has remembered her crimes.” We cannot be considered His people without following His rules. One of the freedoms to work on during Pesach is “freedom of the mouth.” James tells us that the tongue is likened to a rudder of a ship; although very small, steers the large vessel (James 3:1-18). It is the only organ that can cause problems in two directions- what we eat (in), and what we say (out). It is so dangerous that it has two coverings; hard teeth and soft lips. Most of us are slaves to our tongues in both directions! On our Seder night and during the next week, we have time to think about and improve ourselves in this area. The structure of the Hebrew language provides more insight into this freedom of the mouth concept.
Pesach can be divided into two words: Peh Sach, which means “the mouth speaks.” We are commanded to tell the story of the Exodus every year (Ex. 13:10). The Hebrew word Paroh (Pharaoh) can be divided into two words: Pe Rah, a “bad mouth.” Our affliction of the slavery in Egypt was characterized as Perach (difficult work) which can be read as two words: Peh Rach: “a loose mouth.” See James 3:1-18 for the damage that the tongue can and does cause.
The Exodus demonstrated G-d’s love for humanity, and the choices He allows us to make either to follow or ignore His rulings, statutes, laws, and commands. His intervention in the affairs of humankind throughout the Bible demonstrates His continued guidance, judgment, and kindness for the sake of the believers collective and individual redemption.
The answer to suffering is found in the book of Job and on the Seder table. On this festival of rejoicing in our redemption, symbols of suffering are included on the Seder plate. The bitter herbs, the salt water reminiscent of tears, the charoset resembling the mortar of the back-breaking labor, are before us. Yet the symbols of redemption and the symbols of suffering are intricately woven together and are inseparable. The charoset, representing mortar and enslavement is sweet. The karpas, representing new life, is dipped in the salt water. The bitter herbs are dipped in the charoset before eating. Rabbi Elazar said that he never understood why the Seder had to take place at night, until another sage explained to him that only the totality of day and night, joy and suffering can produce the redemption (B’nei Brak). The Exodus was an introduction to the world to G-d; who He is and how He acts, always intervening for our ultimate welfare. Those who partake of the Seder taste the truth that suffering is an inextricable part of the process of redemption. Is suffering necessary? Yes. Does coming to the Truth of G-d’s Torah and following Yahshua abrogate the requirement that we must endure adversity to ascend to G-d? No. Is G-d really in charge today? Yes. 1 Corinthians 10:13 reads “No temptation has seized you beyond what people normally experience, and G-d can be trusted not to allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear. On the contrary, along with the temptation he will also provide the way out, so that you will be able to endure.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 reminds us that G-d’s grace is sufficient for us through all adversities, and that His power is brought to perfection in weakness.
During this Pesach and feast of Unleavened Bread, let us strive for a higher level of spiritual freedom. Let each person decide before the Seder, “What am I enslaved to?” Some possible answers may include anger, peer approval, materialism, jealousy, self-destructive habits, fear of commitment, resentment, laziness in any context, dishonesty, greed, or the desire to control. As we partook of the Seder and continue celebrating this special time, let us each make a commitment to strive to improve and accomplish the changes we need to make. Then we can appeal to G-d to help us in our efforts to ascend in our relationship to YHVH/Yahshua as we descend in our narcissistic relationships with ourselves. Achieving real freedom requires realizing who we are and admitting that only YHVH/Yahshua is the One true G-d, and that He is the ultimate source of our liberation and everything else in the universe. By the way, The Feast of First Fruits is the culmination of the Pesach, and Feast of Unleavened Bread observance. May we be found to be faithful servants and arise to His Tallit in our lifetimes and soon.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart