Passover 2020: Remembering Miracles – Praying For Miracles!

Shalom and Chag Sameach, dear friends! I am publishing this post on Wednesday  (April 8)  just a few hours before Passover – the most unusual Passover in our lives. Due to  coronavirus lockdown,  not only  this year we will not celebrate  with relatives and friends ,  – we can’t actually leave our homes till  Thursday, 7 am. Doesn’t it remind you the words from Exodus: And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning”[1]?  Let us  try to contemplate together the events of that night.

When I see the blood, I will pass over you

Years ago, I wrote a script for a Passover play. The play describes the events that take place in Egypt right before the Exodus. The main character is a Hebrew boy called Avi (short for Avraham) who has a pet lamb, which is his constant companion and favorite play-mate. When the Lord, through Moses, gives the order to separate out a lamb for the sacrifice, Avi’s family settles their choice on that lamb, possibly because he was the very best, or perhaps because he was just the only one there was. The evening before the Exodus, Avi’s parents go to catch the lamb to slay it, and the crying boy chases after them, all the time asking, “But why? Why him? He is so good, so white, so clean and pure!” His parents answer, “This is the reason we are choosing him; because he is spotless, he is the one that must be used for the sacrifice. Later you’ll understand why we could not act otherwise and the reason that he needs to die.”

That night when, ready to leave Egypt, all the family members including the tearful boy sit at the table sharing the first ever Passover seder in the history of Israel, suddenly there is complete silence. Then, first from one, then from another house they hear horrified shrieks and wails. The boy, utterly frightened, is held close by his parents and when he looks up into their faces, inquisitively waiting for an explanation, his mother explains, “Do you understand now why your lamb had to die? On this night, the angel of death is striking all the firstborn sons of Egypt. You are our firstborn, and if not for the blood of the lamb on our doorposts, you would have died too. By his death, he gave you life.” With tears in his eyes, the shaken Avi gives thanks to God for saving his life by the blood of his lamb. “For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer (mash-hit) to come into your houses to strike you”[2].

 

Destruction or Corruption?

Now, look at the word that is underlined.  In Hebrew, the destroyer of the Pesach story is Mashhit; for years, I had been convinced that this root had to do only with death, killing and destroying – like “the destroyer” in English. How great was my surprise though, when I found this word in the very beginning of the Torah Portion “Noah” (before the punishment – before the Flood):  So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt (nish-heta); for all flesh had corrupted (hish-hit) their way on the earth”. Why, all of a sudden, in this story that happened a long time before Pesach, do we find a word that rings this frightening Pesach sound, a word that sounds as though it has just been taken from the Passover story?

This was one of my first discoveries when I started to read the Scriptures in Hebrew. Though I knew very well that almost all the verbs in Hebrew could  have different forms (binyanim, conjugationsand accordingly, different meanings – I was still absolutely overwhelmed to find out that the verb – הִשְׁחִית depending on its form, can have either of these meanings: to be corrupted – and to destroy.

Do you see what is going on here? The language of Torah is different from any other human language: each word here is pregnant with all the future meanings— with something that is yet to come, that is not seen by man, but is definitely seen by God. At this point of the story of Noah, the punishment and the destruction – the flood – has not yet come; it’s not even promised yet, Torah is just telling us about the sin and the corruption, and not about the punishment. However, already here, at the very beginning of this story – this frightening word, הִשְׁחִית, sounds as a stern and sober warning about impending judgment—as a stern and sober warning that punishment and destruction are inevitable consequences of sin and corruption (a warning that is completely lost in the translations).

The Two Feasts

Now we can understand better the powerful symbolism of the Unleavened Bread in the Bible. It didn’t originate in the New Testament – we read already in Exodus:  “You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leavened bread”[3], The blood of the sacrifice and the leavened bread are not to be mixed – therefore, we have this clear distinction  in Leviticus: On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the Lord’s PassoverAnd on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; seven days you must eat unleavened bread.

Thus, even though “since the destruction of the second Temple, when the offering of the paschal lamb was no more possible, the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread became confounded in the minds of the Jews, and the terms are used by the Rabbis interchangeably, but originally and in the Divine plan they were distinct, though in the most intimate possible relation with one another.”[4] We see that the Torah refers to Passover on the 14th of Nisan, and to the “Festival of Unleavened Bread” on the 15th of Nisan. The Feast of the Unleavened Bread begins on the evening, when 14th of Nisan becomes 15th of Nisan (Jewish days begin at nightfall, as you may know). The Passover offering was slaughtered on the 14th and eaten that night—the 15th—together with matzah, at the onset of the Festival of Matzahs. The New Testament confirms that in Jesus’ times, these two Feasts were distinct as well.  In Mark  14:1 we read:

After two days it was the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

It is this Passover background we have to keep in mind when we read the famous words of Paul in 1 Corinthians:  “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover,  is sacrificed for us”.[5] The logic of this verse, however strange it seems from the beginning, is perfectly understandable against the background of Passover: since the

Passover lamb is sacrificed, the bread is unleavened. A modern Christian reader, if he knows nothing about the Jewish Passover, would likely read this verse in a symbolic sense only. However, originally, the apostle probably refers to a very practical  traditional custom of bedikat chametz – the ceremony of the “searching for leaven”,  which existed at the time of Jesus and still exists in Jewish homes today, both in Israel  and in the dispersion: on the evening before 14th of Nisan, all the likely and unlikely  places all over the house are inspected lest they have any occasional crumbs. The Jewish home has to be completely clean of any leaven – and this is the traditional picture on which Paul bases his symbolism.

 

CHAG SAMEACH,  DEAR FRIENDS! HAPPY PASSOVER AND HAPPY EASTER!  !WISHING YOU JOY  AND PEACE AND HEALTH AND MANY  BLESSINGS DURING  THIS  HOLIDAY SEASON AND THROUGHOUT THE YEAR!

[1] Ex.12:22

[2] Exo.12:23

[3] Ex.23:18

[4] David Baron, Types, Psalms and Prophecies, Jerusalem,  Keren Ahvah Meshihit, 2000, p. 22

[5] 1 Cor.5:6,7

 

If you like the  articles on this blog, you might enjoy also my books,  you  can get  them  from  my page:   https://blog.israelbiblicalstudies.com/julia-blum/  . My last book “Unlocking the Scriptures”, with the Hebrew insights into the Torah and  Jewish Background insights   into NT,  is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=unlocking+the+scriptures+by+julia+blum&crid=2IHYED6W7ZVYI&sprefix=julia+blum+%2Caps%2C689&ref=nb_sb_ss_i_4_11

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

You might also be interested in:

Where To Study Biblical Hebrew –...

By Julia Blum

The Lessons Of Exodus

By Julia Blum

Join the conversation (11 comments)

Leave a Reply

  1. Lucien Ayefegue Mezui

    I see a link between 2 chronicles 36.22-23; Esdras 1. Cyrus was the King of Persians; But in Daniel Gabriel is going to fight against the chief of Perse or the devil itself. Cyrus overruled all the world at his time, as the COVID-19 now all over the 5 continents. It’s a calling from God our father to go back home like the prodigal son. During this pandemic, many people will cry like Ruth and Nahomy, but the gospel , the good news is : Help is on the way. After mornings, there’s hope and joy to come, many Boaz are coming with a big Revival and a huge harvest of sons of God, not only children, but many sons to worship the Father and glorify the Lord Jesus like Stephen in act 7. The sky is open now and wants to hear from us,.

  2. Henrietta wisbey

    Dear Julia I have just had an interesting thought, as I read your piece. Only the Blood on the doorposts could save us from the destruction of corruption. As the family of Noah took shelter in the ark commanded by God and the children of Israel sheltered in their homes while the angel fo death passed over so we also abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
    May we be not as, the fool who has said in his heart there is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable works. Ps.14:1 and Ps.53:1
    Henrietta

    1. Julia Blum

      Dear Henrietta, you are right, the Bible tells us a lot about the plagues,and how we can be sheltered from them. How the plague can be stopped. There are a lot of types and symbols in the Bible, we just have to see and understand them.

  3. Arend Warmels NL

    Dear Julia, thank you so much for your ever revealing writing. But I do have a question, actually not about Passover itself, but more about the date and time of the Last Supper that Jezus celebrated with his disciples, the evening before His. crucifixtion.
    If the crucifixtion took place 14 Nissan and Jesus ‘committed His Spirit to the Father’ at three o’clock in the afternoon (as I have been made to understand, the moment of the sacramental Offer of the Passover Lamb in the Temple), than the meal that we call Last Supper can not be the ‘Passover Meal’ as meant in Exodus(because that is supposed to be eaten AFTER the sacrifice), while in Luke 22:8-10 is suggested that the Jesus celebrated the Ceder on the evening of 14 NIssan, in stead of the evening of 15 Nissan (as you explain in your text). In the church we were taught the the Last Support WAS the Passover Meal. Can you elaborate on this if you find an occasion to do so? Thank you.

    1. Gladys Fox

      I am not Julia, but I must say that there are two different meals that may cause confusion to many Christians . One takes place a few days before Passover. This is the supper where Jesus washes the feet of the disciples and He also tells Judas to do what he must do (betray Jesus ) Jesus would have fasted on the day the lambs were sacrificed . This was the fast of the first born .Jesus didn’t die on the same day as the Passover lambs. He died on the same time as the Passover lambs. Jesus is not a Passover lamb .He is a unique sacrificial lamb .Jesus did eat the seder ( seder means order in Hebrew) and it is very ritualistic meaning it follows a certain pattern. After the Seder they sang the Hallel. ( Psalms 113 through 118) The Hallel is sung only during certain Festivals .

      1. Arend Warmels NL

        Dear Gladys, thank you for that additional information, I thought so that there was ‘another’ meal, but the knowledge about that has probably has been in christian tradition

        1. Julia Blum

          Dear Arend and Gladys, thank you both for your comments. This topic is very important of course, therefore I’ve decided that my next post (in three days, on Thursday April 16), should be about the Last Supper. Stay tuned! 🙂

  4. Michael Toliver

    Hello Professor Blum.
    Very interesting, certainly much has been lost in translation! It is great to have people like yourself to point out the meaning in the Hebrew, which we do not have in our English translation. You said that this could imply not only what happen in that day but also refers to future events as well. Do you think that this also could be a reference to the wrath of God in the Great Tribulation?

    1. Julia Blum

      Hi Michael, thank you for your generous words. I think everything in the Bible has several layers of meaning – that’s why I like so much the rabbinic PARDES exegesis, have you heard of it? – but it’s only looking back we can say confidently what was this symbolism about. For instance, now I can see things in the Bible that speak about our current times and prepare us for Corona – but who could have thought about it even a few months ago?

  5. Peter Shilaluka

    I have really enjoyed reading your post concerning what you offer at your institution.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you Peter, you are welcome to find out even more about what eTeacher offers!