Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Special Readings for First Day of Pesach
Haftarah: Joshua 5:2-6:1
Although the prescribed reading starts at Exodus 12:21, we will start at the beginning of the chapter for a more inclusive examination of Pesach and the associated content in this reading.
Exodus 12:1 and forward describes the Biblical mandate for establishing our calendar. This is one validating scripture that neither January 1 nor Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of a Biblical year. Ex. 12:2 reads “You are to begin your calendar with this month; it will be the first month of the year for you.” This is the month of Abib in Hebrew or Nissan in Babylonian. This is the very first commandment given to Israel as a nation and not a nomadic tribe. Observance includes men and women, although the New Moon observance has been relegated to women in some communities. This is not Biblical. Observance of the New Moon (Rosh Kodesh) is so important that a thousand years later, during the period of the Syrian-Greek persecution that culminated with the miracle of Chanukkah, Rosh Kodesh was one of only three commandments whose observance was forbidden. The other two commandments were the Sabbath and circumcision. Although the Hebrew name of the first month is Abib, the Babylonian name of Nissan was kept to remind the Jews of their redemption from Babylon which resulted in the building of the Second Temple (Ramban).
Ex.12:3 describes how G-d carefully laid out the details of Pesach (Passover) which is one of the mandated festivals. Notice that the entire assembly is involved. The word for assembly in Hebrew derives from the word Adat (Ayin Dalet Tav) which means to fix or appoint. This implies that the word refers to a society united by a common calling; a community (R. Hirsch). This is the first time this word is used in the Torah, implying that the commandment of the Pesach-offering was the beginning of a new era for Israel and a new relationship with YHVH as His Chosen People. The account of the Passover in the associated parashah provides the first mention of leaven in the Bible and from this point on it comes to stand for evil. In the B’rit Chadashah. leaven represents hypocrisy (Luke 12:1), Rationalism (Matt. 16: 6,12), worldliness (Mark 8:15), evil conduct (1 Cor. 6:6), and false doctrine (Gal. 5:9). The meal that the Israelites are commanded to eat before leaving Egypt is not your typical social gathering where everyone sits and talks around the food and catches up on the latest news of the day. The Israelites must literally eat and run. The fact that G-d commanded they hurry and leave before the bread could become leavened also provides a protective check by G-d on the people. They had no choice if they were going to follow G-d. There was no time to think about ways around what they were commanded to do. Sometimes G-d in His loving kindness and mercy, orchestrates a situation in which we cannot disobey; such as the case where someone has friends or family that are a bad influence on him/her and the person is not strong enough to stand up to them, so G-d “arranges” the situation so that the friends or family makes the separation, solving the problem. In the case of the Israelites about to leave Egypt in a hurry, G-d in His mercy and loving kindness tells the people why they must eat and run. He is about to judge Egypt and kill their firstborn. He is also merciful to allow the Israelites to eat at all! These examples are among many that illustrate how G-d provides our every need. Note that Pharaoh was not killed, even though a firstborn. G-d allowed him to live to tell the world about what he witnessed; the greatness of the G-d of Israel, which is our purpose.
Verse 14 reads “This will be a day for you to remember and celebrate as a festival to Adonai; from generation to generation you are to celebrate it by a perpetual regulation.” The word “perpetual” means ongoing; it has neither been abrogated or replaced with the pagan celebration of Easter, which always falls on Sunday. The true Pesach always falls on the 14th day of Nissan on various days of the week. Pesach does not represent the resurrection of Yahshua. It is the Feast of First Fruits that follows that alludes to this event. Furthermore, contrary to the Orthodox Jewish belief that this festival does not describe Yahshua in any way, Messianic Jewish believers have greater insight owing to the B’rit Chadashah in tandem with the Tanakh. Pesach inextricably combines G-d’s deliverance of His people as Adonai and foreshadows Yahshua’s future sacrifice of Himself as the Pascal Lamb that was to occur in the future.
Verse 15 reads “For seven days you are to eat matzah (unleavened bread)- on the first day remove the leaven from your houses.” We go through our homes, specifically the kitchen and remove anything that may become leavened with the addition of water. “For whoever eats chametz from the first to the seventh day is to be cut off from Israel. On the first and the seventh days, you are to have an assembly set aside for G-d. On these days no work is to be done, except what each must do to prepare food; you may only do that.” G-d emphasizes this regulation in verse 17 and for a third time in verse 18. This time He includes foreigners who are traveling with and living among the Israelites. It is clear that we are to separate ourselves from sin, symbolized by chametz. As an example, we may think having a few crumbs of leaven wont; hurt anything. But G-d uses the analogy of chametz to describe the sin in our lives. Yeast or water puffs up dough just as pride puffs up the human ego. We cannot separate one little bit of leaven from the rest of the dough. Once activated, it permeates and effects the entire lump. Such is the case with sin. We must search our hearts and souls for spiritual leaven and remove it on a daily basis. Examples are provided in the Torah; a positive course of action by Joseph with Potiphar’s wife, and a negative course of action between Eve and the serpent. G-d repeats the necessity of removing spiritual leaven from our lives again in verses 24-25. We cannot do this alone and be successful. We need to ask G-d on a daily basis to search our hearts and make our sin known to us so we can repent and move ahead as a clean vessel (Psalms 139:23).
In verse 38 we are told of a mixed multitude that accompanied the Israelites. These people were considered fellow travelers who partook of the regulations and blessings given the Israelites. These were non-Hebrews traveling with the Israelites much as there are Gentiles who travel with spiritual Israel today. Recall that Kelev (Caleb) was a convert. Again, the consistency of G-d and His Torah are demonstrated throughout the entire Torah. G-d’s provision for the proselyte who chooses to follow G-d and His Torah freely is mentioned again in Ex. 12:48. This is but one of many passages in which the Torah mandates that a proselyte be treated as an equal with all other spiritual Israelites, in their responsibility to observe G-d’s commands, and in receiving the blessings that come with obedience out of love and fear of G-d.
Finally, in Ex. 13:3 the word “remember” used in “Remember this day on which you departed from Egypt” is the infinitive form, implying that the Exodus should be remembered constantly; representing physical deliverance from geographical Egypt, and spiritual deliverance from the death indictment inherited from the sin of Adam IF we choose to repent and become reconciled to G-d through Yahshua’s sacrifice. We are not to lament or wish for our past conditions or surroundings. This is the difference between looking back as did Lot’s wife that resulted in her death, and recalling with humility and grateful awe how YHVH/Yahshua delivered us from Egypt and how the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) was given to us to help us through our wilderness experiences on a daily basis.
Haftarah: Joshua 5:2-5:1;27
Y’hoshua’s (Joshua) mission was to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. His mission differed greatly from that of Moshe. Moshe led the people through a miraculous existence. The people were totally dependent on G-d for their existence including food and water. Manna was the source of their nutrition and all they had to do was go out and gather it. By contrast, the first Pesach after entering Eretz Canaan was an entirely different experience. It was only the third time that Pesach had been celebrated, once in Egypt, again in the first year in the desert, and now upon entering the land. It was also the first time the men of the community had been circumcised since leaving Egypt. There was another significant difference; “On the day after the Pesach offering, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened bread and parched grain. On that same day, when they ate of the produce of the land, the manna ceased, that year they ate of the yield of the land of Canaan.” (5:11-12).
The first Pesach in the land marked the end of the miraculous existence for the children of Israel. From this time forward, their lives were to be normative. They would eat the produce from the land, land they worked. No more spoon feeding with manna from above. Rashi offers an analogy providing insight into the implications of this change: “From this time forth they would eat from the produce of the land, for if they had manna, they would not eat from the produce, since the manna was much easier for them. This is like a situation where a child is seen eating barley bread (which is cheap and not exactly tasty). When asked why he is eating barley bread and not wheat bread, he responds that he does not have any.” It is not difficult for us to understand Rashi’s analogy, especially in our society as it exists today. As the government continues to encourage people to seek assistance in a plethora of situations, many people, by their very nature become dependent on others and less motivated to work for their living. Many people will not trouble themselves with making an effort if they have everything given to them; even settling for second best as a path of least resistance. The message of Pesach is that the blessing of freedom requires taking responsibility for one’s life and putting forth an honest effort for things that are important. This is why the miracle of the redemption of Israel from Egypt does not end in the desert but in Eretz Israel, the place where spiritual Israel will one day come to rest as a result of their love of G-d, obedience to His Torah, and redemption through the sacrifice of the Messiah Yahshua.
Rabbi T. Davis