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”? 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”.
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, conjugations) and 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”, The blood of the sacrifice and the leavened bread are not to be mixed – therefore, we have this clear distinction in Leviticus: 5 On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the Lord’s Passover. 6 And 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.” 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”. 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!
 David Baron, Types, Psalms and Prophecies, Jerusalem, Keren Ahvah Meshihit, 2000, p. 22
 1 Cor.5:6,7
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