Thoughts Before Passover

My dear readers, I am facing a real challenge this week. The reading for the last week consisted of two Torah Portions, therefore I was supposed to comment on two Parashot, and not one.   I did not have enough space for the second one, though, and therefore, the last Portion of Exodus is yet to be discussed.  Meanwhile, we started not only a new Torah Portion, but a new Torah Book; and on the top of all that, the Passover – Pesach – is fast approaching (as some of you probably know). Therefore, I have a threefold task in this post: to comment on Pikudei (the last portion of Exodus), to discuss Vayikra (the first portion of Leviticus), and to share some thoughts regarding Pesach.

 

Pukidei

The final portions of the book of Exodus, in their entirety, describe the efforts of Moses and all the people of Israel in building the Tabernacle – the wonderful portable sanctuary that was to accompany the Jewish people throughout their long journey in the wilderness, and was to be set up in the Land of Israel when they finally arrived there. Finally, in the very last chapter, the concluding verses of the Book of Exodus inform us about the completion of this Sanctuary: “So Moses finished the work[1]. What happens next?

Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting… And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it[2] A thick cloud covered the newly built Sanctuary. Because of this cloud, Moshe himself was unable to enter the Sanctuary. Can you imagine? After all the effort, which had gone into this building, it was covered by a cloud and seemed to be totally inaccessible and totally useless.

Yes, of course, everyone   knows NOW that it was not just cloud: it was God’s glory! God’s presence covered the Sanctuary! However, think of that first moment when it happened: how could they know exactly what this cloud was?  I am sure that Moses had faith, and  didn’t doubt or question God, – but I am also quite sure that there were many there who were grumbling, wondering why in the world they had spent so much time building the very thing that now seemed to be so useless! It is always our choice: to praise God for His presence covering the Tabernacle – or to grumble about the untimely cloud, interfering with our plans.

 

Vayikra

In an amazing way – like everything in Torah – this choice is reflected by the very first word of our portion, “VaYikra”. I wrote about it already, but I think it’s worth mentioning every time we come to the Book of Leviticus – Vayikra. In the original Hebrew text, the first word of this Portion and of this Book – the word  Vayikra – has a peculiar feature: it is written with a little aleph at the end. There are three sizes of the letters in Torah – intermediate, oversized and miniature – and every time we see a letter of a different size, we should look for a profound explanation.  So, why do we have this miniature aleph here?

Our sages have offered different explanations, mostly to do with humility: they said that Moses had attained the highest level of humility, and it was expressed by the miniature aleph of Vayikra. There is, however, another explanation, that I love and always share.  The word “VaYikra” without the aleph would read “VaYiker”, which means, “and it happened”. So, when we begin to read this book in Hebrew, we first read: “it happened”; but then we see this little Alef –and understand that the message here is completely different. There is a huge and truly ontological difference between the worldview based on Vayikra – “and He called, and the worldview based on VaYiker – “and it happened”. A Jewish commentary says that when the Red Sea split, all the seas in the world split at the same time—because the Lord always leaves us a choice to perceive His miracles as some natural event that “just happened”.  Once again, we always have this choice: to recognize the presence of God, the hand of God, the voice of God – or to see a cloud that ‘just happened’ to come at a bad time and became an unfortunate obstacle in our worship.

 

Preparing for Passover

Lately, I heard an interesting story. Some great rabbi in Israel (I won’t mention his name), while talking about cleaning his house for Passover (Nikayon Pesach), said, “However, the most important cleaning is of course the cleansing of the heart”. When asked, whether he knows who had said it before him, he answered: Of course! It was Paul!  Thus, the Jewish rabbi knows about Paul and Paul’s exhortation to cleanse the hearts from the leaven; do the Christians readers know about Jewish Nikayon Pesach and Bedikat Hametz? When you read Paul’s words speaking of unleavened bread: “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened.[3]  – do you know what the original background of this famous verse was?

A modern Christian reader would probably see in these words only spiritual reality: believers, being saved and purified from sin (leaven), become the unleavened bread. However, there is no doubt that while writing, Paul had in mind the Jewish Passover and that his words refer to a very practical bedikat chametz – the ceremony of “searching for leaven”. This ceremony probably existed in the time of Jesus, and it still exists in Jewish homes today, both in Israel and in the dispersion: after weeks of thorough cleaning (Nikayon Pesach), on the evening before Passover, the entire house would be solemnly inspected for any occasional crumbs of leaven. Here is what David Baron writes: “I well remember the interest with which as a boy I used to follow about my father on the evening before 14th of Nisan… after uttering the prayer: “Blessed are you the Lord our God, who has sanctified us by Your commandments and commanded us to remove the leaven”, he proceeded to search all the likely and unlikely places all over the house for leaven”. This ceremony, completing the cleaning of the house, has always been considered necessary and final preparation for the Feast.  Undoubtedly, Paul’s words refer to this custom – however, as it happens often in the New Testament, Paul reveals a new spiritual layer beyond the traditional custom.

[1] Ex.40:33

[2] Ex.40:34-35

[3] 1 Cor.5:7

We offer a wonderful course for studying  Hebrew Torah Portions,  along with their New Testameniallusions allusions and interpretations. As always, you are welcome to contact me for more information!  Also, excerpts from my books are included in many posts here, so if you like the articles on this blog, you might enjoy also my books,  you can get them here

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:

Join the conversation (9 comments)

Leave a Reply

  1. Remy Dubeau

    As catholic I see the consecration of the tabernacle with the ark for the presence of god dwelling among his people as symbolizing Mary.

  2. Yuliya Nalarinke

    Yerushalayim, Yerushalayim!..

    The story of “two crowds ”
    Somebody asked if there were 2 crowds : one shouting Hosanna and another shouting: crucify Him!

    Luke 19:35-46
    35So they brought it to יהושע. And throwing their garments on the colt, they set יהושע on it.

    36And as He went, they were spreading their garments on the way.

    37And as He was coming near, already at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the entire crowd of the taught ones began, to praise Elohim, rejoicing with a loud voice for all the miracles they had seen ( John 6:26 )

    38saying, “ ‘Blessed is the Sovereign who is coming in the Name of יהוה!’ Peace in heaven and esteem in the highest!”

    41And as He came near, He saw the city and wept over it,

    42saying, “If you only knew even today, the matters for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.

    43“Because days shall come upon you when your enemies shall build a rampart around you, and surround you and press you on all sides,

    44and dash you to the ground, and your children within you. And they shall not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

    45And having entered into the Set-apart Place, He began to drive out those selling and buying in it,

    46saying to them, “It has been written, ‘My House is a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of robbers.’ ”

    Luke 13:34-35
    Yerushalayim, Yerushalayim, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to her! How often I wished to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, but you would not!

    35“See, your House is left to you laid waste. And truly I say to you, you shall by no means see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who is coming in the Name of יהוה!’ ”

    They were shouting Hosanna. Why did Yeshua cry over them? He was not the Messiah they expected or wanted. There were no 2 crowds . Only one.

    Matthew 23:13:39

    Mark 11:15-17
    Yeshua stopped the sacrifices of Yisrael ( verse 16)

    John 6:26-68
    The point Yeshua was making – you have NO life in yourself apart from Me.

    Matthew 27:19-26
    We have no sovereign except Caesar.
    John 19:15

    Restoration is forthcoming.
    Romans 11:1-32
    Zechariah 12:10-14
    Zechariah 13:1

    I saw on someone’s FB page : love is when He wipes away your tears even when you left Him on the cross for your sins.
    Zechariah 12:10-14 comes to mind.
    Yisrael- Yahuwah’s beloved forever.

    1. Julia Blum

      Hi Yulia, thank you for addressing this “two crowds” question. My next post is also written as a response to this question, it might be of interest to you.

    2. Remy Dubeau

      It can be two different crowds as the second (days later) were maybe mostly agitators called by the sanhedrin.

  3. Yuliya Nalarinke

    1 Corinthians 5:7-8
    7Therefore cleanse out the old leaven, so that you are a new lump, as you are ( as you are), unleavened. For also Messiah our Passover was offered for us ( sacrificed ).
    8So then let us observe the festival, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of evil and wickedness( leaven of evil and
    wickedness- not literal leaven, how literal leaven be wicked?) , but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. ( bread of sincerity and truth – obviously not literal bread ; yes it is the spiritual reality)
    Verse 7. Pascha in Greek, Pesach in Hebrew, same meaning – Passover:
    Passover lamb,
    πάσχα (pascha)
    Strong’s Greek 3957: The feast of Passover, the Passover lamb; the Passover.

    Hebrews 9:1-28
    6And these having been prepared like this, the priests always went into the first part of the Tent, accomplishing the services.

    7But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for sins of ignorance of the people,

    8the Set-apart Spirit signifying this, that the way into the Most Set-apart Place was not yet made manifest while the first Tent has a standing,( ceremonial standing. Hebrews 10:9 – He takes away the first to establish the second. Is this “the cloud of inconvenience” some people perceive to be? Article mentioned cloud that people perceived as inconvenience, yet it was the Presence of Elohim).

    9which was a parable for the present time in which both gifts and slaughters are offered which are unable to perfect the one serving, as to his conscience, ( 1 Peter 3:21 )

    10only as to foods and drinks, and different washings, and fleshly regulations imposed until a time of setting matters straight.( until setting matters straight . Hebrews 10:1-14 , Hebrews 10:38 Hebrews 8:13 )

    11But Messiah, having become a High Priest of the coming good matters, through the greater and more perfect Tent not made with hands, that is, not of this creation,

    12entered into the Most Set-apart Place once for all, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood, having obtained everlasting redemption.

    14how much more shall the blood of the Messiah, who through the everlasting Spirit offered Himself unblemished to Elohim, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living Elohim?

    15And because of this He is the Mediator of the New Covenant, so that, death having taken place for redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, those who are called might receive the promise of the everlasting inheritance. ( galatians 3:13-14 Yeshua bore the brunt of it like the Noah’s ark. So that by faith we are to receive the promise of the Spirit. 1 Peter 3:21 )

    24For Messiah has not entered into a Set-apart Place made by hand – figures of the true – but into the heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of Elohim on our behalf

    From the cross Yeshua announced : tetelestai! Paid in full.
    John 19:30
    It is finished.”
    Τετέλεσται (Tetelestai)
    Strong’s Greek 5055: I fulfill, accomplish,I pay. From telos; to end, i.e. Complete, execute, conclude, discharge.
    Fulfillment is the cross itself. Yeshua is our Passover and our Exodus.

    Teruah triumph cry that shattered the earth and ushered in God’s kingdom .
    Matthew 27:50-51
    50When Yeshua cried out again in a loud voice, He yielded up His spirit. 51At that moment the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked and the rocks were split (torn ). Its the covenant – cut in 2. ( also Matthew 27:54 . 1 Peter 3:18. Hebrews 10:5-10. Hebrews 10:14 His people are brought back, restored to Him with the shouts of joy and triumph. Shout – He and we. Teruah)
    Mark 7:37 He has done ALL things well.
    2 corinthians 5:19-21 in Him to become the righteousness of Elohim.

  4. Joan Giesbrecht

    This week our pastor sent out this memo: “As many of you know, I feel a little conflicted about Palm Sunday. On the one hand, there is celebration and palm waving as Jesus rides into Jerusalem .. on the other hand, the week that follows is full of conniving and conspiring on the part of the Jewish leaders. There is a fickleness to the crowd which proclaims “Hosanna!” one day and is screaming “Crucify him!” a week later.” Do you agree with this view? Is it the same crowd of people who sang Hosanna and later cried Crucify him? I have read views that these were 2 separate crowds.

    1. Julia Blum

      This is a very profound question, Joan. I had been thinking about it for several days, and I ended up writing a post in response to this question. So stay tuned, today or tomorrow I will publish this post!

  5. Moselle

    good morning Julie

    I wish you and Israel a happy and safe Passover. I know during he pandemic it is hard for families and friends to get together, but hopefully this will end soon and we can go to our normal life again. Be well and safe. Moselle

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you Moselle, Chag Pesach Sameach to you too! Blessings!