“Hashem (the L-RD, literally The Name) spoke to Moses saying, ‘Sanctify to Me every firstborn, the first issue of every womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast, is Mine.’ Moses said to the people; ‘Remember this day on which you departed Egypt from the house of bondage, for with a strong hand Hashem took you out from there, and therefore no chametz (leaven) may be eaten. Today you are leaving in the month of springtime. And it will come to pass, when Hashem shall bring you to the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Emorites, Hivvites, and Jebusites, which He swore to your forefathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you shall perform this service in this month. Seven days you shall eat matzot (unleavened bread), and on the seventh day there shall be a festival to Hashem. Matzot shall be eaten throughout the seven days; no chametz may be seen in your possession, nor may leaven be seen in your possession in all your borders. And you shall tell your son on that day, saying, It is because of this that Hashem acted on my behalf when I left Egypt. And it shall serve you as a sign on your arm and as a reminder between your eyes – so that Hashem’s Torah may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand Hashem removed you from Egypt. And you shall observe this ordinance at its designated time from year to year.'” (Exodus 13:1-10)
Here the Torah reminds Israel of G-d’s great deliverance from Egypt. This is one of the four passages inscribed on the parchment insidetefillin (phylacteries) which Jews wear six days a week in response to the verse “a sign on your arm and a reminder between your eyes.” The passage is also recited daily by orthodox Jews in response to the command “remember this day” of deliverance from the house of bondage.
We certainly appreciate this passage in its plain sense, it abounds with the mighty works of the L-RD toward Israel. The command to sanctify to the L-RD every firstborn son and animal is a reminder of the tenth plaque on Egypt, the slaying of the firstborn. It was this plaque of death which compelled Pharaoh to release Israel from bondage. Today it is a tradition that all Jewish firstborn sons fast before Passover in remembrance of the slaying of Egypt’s firstborn.
It should not be forgotten, however, that death was also present in the houses of the Israelites. A lamb was roasted whole before their eyes, its blood daubed on the doorposts. The Israelites undoubtedly realized this little creature’s loss was the salvation of their own firstborn. And it is impossible to imagine one could watch this animal, young and innocent, being roasted whole, and not be stirred with a measure of solemn remorse.
Of course, we know the slaying of the Passover lamb long ago is one of the magnificent shadows of eternal redemption wrought by the True Passover Lamb, Yeshua. And do we not all share pangs of sorrow as thoughts of the Firstborn of G-d come to mind, innocent and whole, slain to liberate us, who once were slaves to a cruel spiritual Pharaoh, satan. On that first Passover Israel hurriedly ate the flesh of the sacrificed lamb. We, in a spiritual way, feast on an eternal Sacrifice. The Torah presents sparkling glimpses of our L-RD, no bone broken and nothing left in the morning…the tomb was empty.
All who celebrate Passover know a major house cleaning to remove all chametz is part of the ceremony. Strict rules ensure no leavened products are even seen in a Jewish home or business. In Israel, all food stores have special covers for certain aisles so that any chametzwill be hidden from view. And at this holiday in place of leaven, only unleavened matzah may be consumed. Various meanings are attached to the eating of matzah; of haste, of purity and of simplicity to name a few.
We might suspect the Israelites who celebrated that first Passover also saw this as something of an innovation in their lives. For when we think in terms of daily bread baking in each Hebrew home, leavened bread would be the most sensible to make. Any leavened dough from earlier batches could be mixed with a fresh batch, it would not be thrown out. And slaves would not be wasting edible food. Yet, in this command only to eat matzah, and also to get rid of any aged dough or chametz, we see something new – a kind of revolution in eating habits. And this new food was not just for one day, but for an entire week. In our case, with our first taste of Messiah’s Passover, we ate a new bread we never knew before. When we first partook of the L-RD’s Supper, we shared an unleavened bread, broken to remind us of G-d’s Messiah suffering for our sakes.
In yet another image in the contrast between chametz and matzah, prior to our deliverance from bondage to sin, we gorged ourselves on the “spirit of the world,” the “spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience.” Our spiritual tongues were thoroughly familiar with the taste of the “leaven” of this world. It was our daily bread. But all of us who have eaten of Messiah’s Matzah, who have devoured His pure Holy Spirit, tasted something altogether new, something we never knew before. And this new bread was not just for a day. After our first taste, we were given a standing order to clean out that chametz, that “old leaven” of our old lives. In a spiritual way, Messiah’s Passover Matzah has become our daily bread.
This season, “Aviv” or springtime, brings to mind other wonderful images. All of us have seen the parallel between the land reviving from winter drab, and our L-RD’s resurrection to the freshness of eternal life after His suffering and death. And today, we who have fled “Egypt” also testify to a wonderful season of fresh newness of life with our L-RD.
For me the spring season brings to mind another, even greater, stage in G-d’s plan of redemption. We know the “fig tree” puts forth its buds in the spring. Messiah commanded us to be watching for all the “buds,” the signs, of His return. When we see them He told us to “lift up our head” and know the summer of G-d’s Kingdom is at the door. From my vantage point in Israel, I discern the appearance of many “buds.” The current negotiations for “a just and comprehensive peace” between Israel and Arab neighbors strongly reminds me of Rav Shaul’s letter to the Thessalonians in which he mentioned the L-RD’s return and an illusionary “peace and safety.”
“You yourselves know full well that the day of the L-RD will come like a thief in the night. While they are saying, ‘Peace and Safety!’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day of the L-RD should overtake you like a thief, for you are all sons of light and sons of the day.”
Let us lift up our heads. Just as Israel sang the song of G-d’s salvation at the Red Sea in the season of spring, so let us rejoice, looking for Messiah’s millennial kingdom, that thousand-year-long “day” in which Israel, the nations and all the earth will be renewed as in spring.
Even the name of the month of Passover, “Nisan,” appears to reflect the Israelite “flight” from Egypt. The word nisah means “a hasty departure,” it therefore seems the name “Nisan” tells of the month of escape. There may also be an allusion to miracles since nes means miracle. Shaul told the Ephesians that when Messiah arose from the grave He lead captivity captive, leading those deceased saints from the “bosom of Abraham” in Sheol to a new freedom in the heavenlies. Certainly we view our own Passover redemption as a miraculous flight from evil. Yes, we are in the world, but we are not of the world. In haste we left behind the corrupted life of “Egypt.” As we press on to freedom from sin which Messiah promised us, let us put to death the cravings for the old “flesh pots of Egypt.”
On that first Passover the Israelites not only were set free from bondage in Egypt, they were reassured that G-d was going to lead them to the “Promised Land” flowing with milk and honey. The departing Israelites knew nothing of a forty year tour of the desert. They were told of a good land promised to their fathers, which Hashem would give them. In a similar way we too were assured of a different kind of “promised land,” a land of life more abundant. Yet, like the Israelites’ submission (or lack thereof) to Moses, today our obedience to Messiah determines whether or not we enter that promised luxuriant spiritual life or continue to wander around in a barren and howling wasteland. How tragic that many believers wander in a spiritual limbo because they do not discern the L-RD’s voice. They do not really trust His leadership. Believers like these have not regressed to the full bondage of their old life in Egypt, yet neither have they crossed the border into that new land of abundance.
Shaul urged the Corinthians, concerning the record of Israel in Torah, “These things happened to them as an example, and were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” The Corinthians were solemnly warned not to plunge into the same pattern of disobedience as ancient Israel, lest the same punishment come upon them. Today, whether Jewish or Greek, we must obey the voice of our L-RD and stretch our faith to conquer the “promised land” lest we as well forfeit the great salvation set before us. We must never allow ourselves a false comfort of “being in the wilderness.” Still, in the course of this age, we will always face challenges to prove our faith. There will always be pesky “Canaanites, Hittites, Jebusites, Hivvites and Emorites.” The L-RD will not remove challenges to our faith. He will not drive out all these foreigners lest the land be desolate. But in our struggles we have confidence, looking for the glorious appearing of our great G-d and Savior, Yeshua the Messiah. Until the triumphal day of global redemption we do our part to proclaim the hope of life eternal. As we contemplate our Redeemer this Passover, let us also strive to achieve in our lives all the fullness of the image of Messiah that we can.
Let us rejoice at this Passover season.
– Hanokh Ben Qeshet