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Why is this Passover night different from all the rest? Mainly because more and more Christians, both in Israel and overseas, will be partaking in some observance of Passover, a phenomenon that is catching on among many Christians, evangelical and otherwise.
Erev Pesach (Passover Eve) begins at sunset on Monday night in Israel. Jews all across Israel and the world will sit down for the traditional Seder dinner commemorating the miraculous exodus of the Israelites form Egypt. Each year, more Christians join in whether with their Jewish neighbors or at Seder dinners of their own.
Wayne Hilsden, senior pastor of King of Kings Community in Jerusalem, said that Christians have a precedent for observing the Passover: Jesus’ last supper was a Passover Seder with his disciples.
“Celebrating Passover is an enriching experience for every Christian,” Hilsden told Travelujah. “The symbols in the Passover celebration ultimately point to the Messiah. To sever our link with the Old Testament scripture - the root and foundation of our faith - causes Christians to miss out on some very significant spiritual truths.”
Every other year King of Kings hosts a large seder dinner for the entire congregation while the other years congregants gather with smaller groups in homes. They use a range of the traditional order of the meal, the Hagaddah (telling in Hebrew), written by Orthodox Jews to ones written by Messianic believers. Hilsden said that church leaders present the Seder with the belief that “Yeshua (Jesus) is the Passover lamb and his blood has been sprinkled over the doors of our hearts through faith.”
“Prominent churches around the world are awakening to and having Passover Seders,” Hilsden said, adding that observing the feast “will bring a far greater measure of spiritual health and understanding to churches.
Christine Darg, president of Exploits Ministry, has led Passover conferences in Israel and in countries around the Middle East for Christians over the past 14 years.
“We gain a deeper revelation of the principles and precepts of our God by observing the (biblical) feasts, all of which are types and shadows of Messiah,” Darg said. “Every element of the Passover meal and Seder points in some way to Him. The striped and pierced unleavened bread speaks of Him as the sinless one who was pierced and wounded for our sins and sicknesses.”
Darg noted the striking parallels between Passover and Jesus’ death. The process of the Passover sacrifice began in the temple at 9 a.m.; Jesus was bound to his cross at the third hour, 9 a.m. The temple sacrifices continued until the the evening sacrifice at the ninth hour, or 3 p.m., when then the high priest would cry out, “It is finished.” At the ninth hour Jesus also cried from the cross, “It is finished!” as he died.
“The church historically never should have distanced itself from its Hebraic foundations,” Darg told Travelujah. “It is important to commemorate the death and burial of Jesus, the Lamb of God, and to celebrate the resurrection of Yeshua as the first fruits from the dead at the appropriate season, at Pesach, rather than during the pagan spring holiday named after a fertility goddess.”
This doesn’t mean that Christians don’t or shouldn’t also celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Most do observe Easter, but many call the holiday “Resurrection Sunday” instead.
Visiting Israel during Passover is especially unique. Since most Israelis observe the holiday, the days leading up to it are marked by a rush at the supermarkets and massive spring cleaning to get rid of the leaven from one’s home according to the biblical command in Exodus 13 and Deuteronomy 16.
Hilsden said that with the whole country taking part in a Seder in most homes, you can’t help but hear the traditional songs and joy pouring through the open windows and through the walls as families sit around the Passover table. It is a galvanizing moment in the nation.
“You have a sense of participating in something bigger than yourself,” he said. “Any holiday (here) is special. There’s something in the atmosphere that you breathe and you feel. When you come to the Holy City for a holy day, it is just unlike anything you experience in any part of the world.”
By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah
Nicole Jansezian writes for www.travelujah.com, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Travelujah is a vibrant online community offering high quality Christian content, user and expert blogs, travel tours and planning services for people interested in connecting with or traveling to the Holy Land.
On the first day of Passover, April 8, 2009, many Jews from around the world awoke prior to sunrise to say a special prayer that is read once in 28 years. Why? Because once every 28 years, the Sun returns to the position it occupied when
it was created at the beginning of the fourth day of creation. the praryer, "God, today I shall begin to cling to You!" is a declaration of a new beginning - we are wiping our slate clean of yesterday's excess emotional baggage. It underscores man's need to constantly rejuvenate ourselves.
Creation declares a new beginning every twenty eight years.
Tourist arrivals to Israel and the Palestinian Territories has declined significantly since the spring of 2014, nevertheless the Holy Land continues to be an extremely safe travel destinations with an abundance of fascinating historical and religious sites as well as offering diverse cultural experiences. With the holidays of Easter and Passover right around the corner, numerous festivities and experiences will be occurring and there is no better time than now to start planning what to do during the upcoming holidays.
Below you'll find Travelujah's top 10 ideas for Passover and Easter experiences you can only have on a Holy land tour.
Participate in the Palm Sunday and the Good Friday Processions. The Palm Sunday procession is held on Sunday March 29, 2015 at 2:30 p.m. and commemorates the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
Approximately 5,000 to 10,000 people are expected to join this event. The procession is led by the Latin Patriarchate and begins at Bethphage and continues into the Old City entering through the St. Stephen's Gate and ending at the Church of St. Anne.
The Good Friday procession (Via Crucis) is at 11:30 a.m. The Procession is led by the Franciscan Friars and begins at the First Station of the Cross in the Old City. The walk follows the path that Jesus took on the day of his death, known as the Way of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa. According to Father Juan Solana, the local representative of the Vatican,"Being a part of this very special procession," says Father Juan, "is a unique experience for any Christian."
Over the last several years more Christians are seeking to understand the roots of Christianity and one of the best ways to delve deeper is to study the Torah and celebrate a Passover seder. Unlike Easter which is celebrated by attending mass, the Passover Seder is a true family celebration. If you have an opportunity to attend a seder its can be a wonderfully meaningful experience.
Visit the Holy Sepulchre on Good Friday. This shrine is where the last five Stations of the Cross are located. No Easter in the Holy Land is complete without exploring this historic shrine. The Good Fridan services: 8.00 a.m. - Celebration of the Passion of the Lord, Calvary. The doors will remain opened.4.00 p.m. - The Liturgy of the Hours. 8.10 p.m. - "Funeral" Procession.
On Easter Sunday the services are as follows
a.m. - Entry into the Basilica by the Latin Patriarch
8:00 a.m. - Solemn Mass of Resurrection and Procession around the Rotunda
5:00 p.m. - Daily Procession
To have a truly authentic experience, visit the Upper Room located at Mount Zion and while you are there make sure you read about the resurrection in the Gospels. Jesus's appearance to the Apostles occurred in the Upper Room. The Upper Room is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 pm. On Holy Thursday, April 2 - at 3:30 p.m. there is a Pilgrimage to the Cenacle and to the Church of St. James.
Easter Sunday also referred to as "Resurrection Sunday", is a special day at the Garden Tomb and services are held at April 5 at 6:30 am and 9:30 in English, Scandanavian at 11 and Korean at 12. Moreover the Garden Tomb also holds its annual Arabic Easter event which coincides with Orthodox Easter and which brings together 500 to 600 Arab and Israeli believers. Seeing both Israelis and Palestinians together in prayer makes this an even more spiritually significant event. This event is scheduled for April 11 in the afternoon. Call 02-539-8100 for details.
The Holy Fire Ceremony is part of the Orthodox tradition and is a special festivity that only happens in Jerusalem, inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. On April 11 Orthodox Christians gather very early in the morning at the Church of the Sepulchre for the annual Holy Fire Ceremony. This is the highlight of Orthodox Christmas when the spirit of Jesus fills the omb site of the Holy Sepulchre. A flame appears inside the tomb and is caught by the Greek Patriarh and an Armenian Orthodox priest and then shared with all the congregants holding candles.
7. Attend the Priestly Blessing at the Western Wall
On the third day of Passover, April 6, 2015 a special priestly blessing, known as the Bircat Cohanim is recited twice at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, first at 9 am during the morning service and again at 10 am during the Musaf service. You will hear the leader of the service reciting the blessing over the loudspeaker in order that everyone can follow and recite the blessing in unison. Our Travelujah tip: bring water!
8. Enjoy the Israel Museum for FREE on April 10, 2015
Celebrate Passover by enjoying free entrance to the Israel Museum on Friday April 10 only, from 10 am to 2 pm. The Israel Museum is kicking off its 50th anniversary celebration with a new exhibit that just opened, "6 Artists / 6 Projects." As an FYI, Bank Hapoalim often sponsors free entrances to a number of museums all over the country during the intermediate days of Passover, April 5 - 9, 2015. Its worth checking Bank Hapoalim's website as you get closer to the holiday to see if they will be offering something this year.
9. Dead Sea Music Festival - April 5 - 9, 2015
For the 19th year, Israelis and tourists from abroad will descend to the Dead Sea for this highly anticipated rock music festival where they will enjoy performances by top Israeli artists.
10. 8th Annual Stone in the Galilee Sculpting Symposium - Maalot-Tarshiha, April 5 - 8, 2015
This international stone sculpting festival is now in its 20th year and brings together many international artists as well as Israel's most prominent sculptors creating art for public spaces. The festival includes dialogues as well as an indoor exhibition. Call 04-9578888
Passover is the most anticipated of all Jewish holidays, and also one of the busiest times of year in Israel. The first and the last days of Passover are religious and legal holidays, so all preparation work must be done during the days prior to those two Sabbaths. But all that work is worth it, as Passover is not only a joyous time of festivity, but a solemn remembrance of the most defining moments in the history of the people of Israel.
Passover is first and foremost a commemoration of the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt, a rebirth from slavery into freedom of the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But it is not merely remembered as a piece of history. Jewish families are commanded to tell the Passover story to their children as though it happened to them personally. In so doing, the vital lessons of the Passover story remain just as relevant today as they were in the time of Moses.
In the run-up to Passover, most Jewish homes will go through what has become known in the West as "spring cleaning," an intense scouring of the house for all chametz, or leavened products. Often crumbs of bread will accumulate in hard-to-reach places, so the easiest thing to do is simply cleanse the entire house from top to bottom. In the final days before Passover, many families will participate in a symbolic candlelight search for the last bits of chametz, a reminder of the biblical commandment that no leaven is to be found during the week-long holiday.
In place of normal bread, Jews will eat special unleavened bread, or matzah, during Passover. This practice is a reminder of the hurried manner in which their ancestors had to depart Egypt, without even time to properly prepare bread for the journey (Exodus 12). Already then, God commanded Israel to mark the event as the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
For those visiting the Holy Land during this season, the Saturday before Passover, known as "the Great Sabbath," is a wonderful time to visit local synagogues, where rabbis will be expounding on meanings behind the laws and regulations surrounding the commemoration of Passover.
The Seder meal on the first evening of Passover (Friday, April 6 this year) is the main event of this holiday season. Following along in a guide/prayer book known as the Haggadah (literally "narration" in Hebrew), families will engage in an evening of story-telling, prayers and feasting that often lasts into the late hours of the night.
At the center of the Seder table rests a special plate containing several particular foods: a roasted egg symbolizing the Temple sacrifices; a roasted shank bone in remembrance of the special Passover lamb offered and eaten during the Exodus and in Temple times; a delicious mixture of chopped apples, nuts,wine and cinnamon known as charoset as a reminder of the mortar the Hebrew slaves in Egypt were forced to prepare day in and day out; sprigs of parsley and lettuce symbolizing the coming of spring; a bitter herb as a reminder of the bitterness of slavery; and salt water to recall the tears of the children of Israel in Egypt.
Another item of importance is a plate containing three sheets of matzah, one for each division of the Jewish people: the priests (cohanim), the Levites, and the general population. One of those matzah sheets is traditionally known as the afikoman, and according to later seder customs, the Passover meal cannot be concluded until it is consumed. As a way of involving the younger Seder participants, the afikoman is as some during the evening hidden away, and must be found by one of the children. At this point, the child who found the afikoman will "ransom" it back so that the Seder may continue.
It is also customary, and important, to recall during the Seder the Ten Plagues visited upon Egypt both for its refusal to loose the children of Israel and to demonstrate the God of Israel's dominance over the pagan gods. But it is not a gloating remembrance. At this point in the Seder, Jews will recall the Ten Plagues by reciting each while simultaneously dipping their fingers in their own glasses of wine and removing a drop for each plague. The symbolism is that even though the Jews were oppressed by Egypt, nevertheless they do not rejoice in the Egyptians' suffering. Israel's own cups of wine cannot remain full while there remains suffering, even the suffering of their enemies.
The morning of Passover (remember, Jewish holidays run from evening-to-evening) is a full public holiday, and nearly all stores and businesses will be closed. This is again a wonderful time to visit local synagogues for festive and joyous readings of scripture both praising God for Israel's freedom and welcoming the latter rains and the start of spring.
The intermediate days of Passover, known as chol ha'moed, occur on weekdays this year (sunset on Saturday, April 7 until sunset on Thursday, April 12), and so are not full public holidays. While schools will still be closed, most businesses will be open, including post offices and banks, and newspapers will be published.
The seventh day of Passover (starting this year at sunset on April 12) is again a full public holiday accompanied by festive synagogue services and family meals.
A more recent addition to the Passover week is the festival of Maimouna, a custom brought to Israel by the Jews of Morocco and North Africa. While Maimouna is not an official public holiday, many Israelis nevertheless take a day off from work and gather in parks and other public venues to enjoy a day of feasting and fellowship.
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Ryan Jones writes regularly for Travelujah-Holy Land Tours, the leading social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.
More and more Christians are celebrating Passover and the other biblical feasts as they become increasingly aware of their own faith's Jewish background. And more and more of those Christians are choosing to celebrate Passover in the Holy Land.
Doing so is significant for two reasons. First, Passover is a pilgrimage feast. The children of Israel were instructed by God to travel to the "place that He will choose" (Jerusalem) during Passover (Deuteronomy 16). As spiritual descendants of Abraham and co-heirs in the blessings of Israel's covenants, many argue that it is just as incumbent upon Bible-believing Christians to partake in the pilgrimage feasts. In fact, when addressing the topic of another pilgrimage feast, Succot, the prophet Zechariah suggests that it will one day be mandatory for all believers to participate.
The second reason visiting Jerusalem during Passover is significant for Christians is the tie-in with Easter. It is widely accepted that Jesus' arrest, interrogation and crucifixion all happened at the start of Passover, and that the "Last Supper" was in fact a Passover Seder. For Christians, this can make a lot of sense, as Passover is all about redemption through the sacrifice of "the lamb."
Rabbi David Rosen, international director of inter-religious affairs at the American Jewish Committee, agreed in remarks to Travelujah that a deeper understanding of the connections between Judaism and Christianity is essential to a more accurate reading of the Bible and the ministry of Jesus.
"It is not for me to tell Christians what is important, however obviously in order to be knowledgeable about their own religion they should be as knowledgeable as possible about Judaism," said Rosen.
Rev. Jerry Clark, director of church relations for the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), similarly told us, "More and more Christians around the world are conducting Seder meals in efforts to connect with the Jewish Roots of their faith and by doing so strengthen their Christian walk."
Clark said that doing so in Jerusalem is a compelling enhancement of that experience.
"To totally understand and grasp the Jewish Roots of Christianity it is important for Christians to observe and participate in a Passover Seder," said Clark. "To do so in Israel only deepens the bonds between Christians and Jews and helps Christian show their unconditional love and support for the Jewish state of Israel and the Jewish people. To do so in Israel also helps Christians understand the significance of going up to Jerusalem for one the pilgrimage feasts. Doing so in Israel truly makes the Bible come alive and Christians return home with a renewed faith, deeper love for Israel and broadened understanding of the Jewish Roots of their faith."
For Clark, and many other Christian ministers coming to a similar realization, a Passover pilgrimage to Jerusalem is an unparalleled faith-based building block. Clark concluded that the lives of those Christians who can make the trip "will never be the same after a visit to Israel to participate in a Passover Seder."
If you are fortunate enough to find yourself in Jerusalem during Passover, there are many options for joining a festive Seder. All of the major hotels will hold organized Passover Seders that can be joined for a fee, as will many local churches. Additionally, in the weeks leading up to Passover, it is not unusual to find posters and notices on walls around Jerusalem inviting strangers to celebrate Passover with local Jewish families and charitable organizations. Passover is a time of hospitality towards strangers, and that will be found in abundance during this season in Jerusalem.
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Ryan Jones write regularly for Travelujah - Holy Land Tours, the leading Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.
In the liturgical narrative of the Seder of Passover night, we are solemnly instructed that "in every generation each must regard himself as though personally coming out of Egypt." The exodus from Egypt, the Passover, is not a one- time event, but the beginning of a continuing process even until our day. The exodus event depends on a future event, that of entry into the land of the Covenant.
The scripture in Exodus signals four words indicative of Jewish Passover - I shall take out, I shall rescue, I shall redeem and I shall take you unto me. There is the fifth scriptural promise - I will bring you to the land - that signals the divine promise made to Abraham in the Covenant of Pieces. The first four expressions are remembered in continuing presence in consumption of the four cups of wine. The fifth cup called the Cup of Elijah represents the culmination of the exodus event insofar as it tells us of the point of it all - the entry into the land promised in the Covenants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Joshua's entry into the land was first, but not last entry. In the many exiles of Israel's history, which were Divine punishment for sin, the Covenant was never abrogated. The prophet Samuel reminds Israel's King Saul that God does not repent of His gifts - the eternity of Israel will not lie (1 Samuel 15:29). Therefore, the anticipation of returning to the land remained central to the collective Jewish consciousness and hope (hope is best defined as a remembrance of things yet to be). The process of redemption is ongoing even unto Auschwitz (the passion of the Jewish people) and the reborn state of Israel (the resurrection of the Jewish sovereign state). The prophet Ezekiel reminds us of this point - I saw you debased in your bloods and say to you in your bloods live (Ezekiel 16:16).
The Mystery of the Jews in their historical suffering and renewal is the fundamental element in trying to fathom Jewish history. It makes no sense without seeing the elements of Divine election, Covenant, Promise and history in which the Jewish people is the Divine surrogate for the Lord of history.
Even the secular is garbed in the sacred in Judaism. Because God is the source of everything that occurs within the process of salvation history, the seemingly secular and profane events take on the mantle of the sacred because of the divine purpose attributed to them by God's revealed truth. This can seen in the biblical episode of Joseph's brothers selling him into slavery, but culminating in the line articulated by Joseph - For God has sent me before you that I might sustain you (Genesis 45:7). In a similar vein, in Christian scripture, the evil intent of the crucifixion is turned on its head by Christian understanding that the act and purpose of the Cross is salvation.
The Eucharist as understood by Catholics and Orthodox Christians begins in the Covenant with the promise of redemption and salvation. The act of Jesus that began the night before the sacrifice on the cross stress the ongoingness of that sacrificial event not as a memorial but a continuing ontological event mystically present through the words of consecration by one commissioned to celebrate the liturgy. This is known in the Greek as Anamnesis. This is an ontological reality - independently present regardless of whether one is capable of recognizing or acknowledging it. Each church must conclude according to its own understanding of what the sacrifice on the cross means - whether it is an ongoing or beginning event.
The continuing exodus for the Jews and continuing sacrifice of Jesus for Christians are attestations to the truth of Divine redemption by God's presence. Each respective community of believers is impelled by the mystery of redemption and salvation. Each community is first separated from each other, but in God's own time they will come together as stated in our shared scripture - my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56:7). Parallel lines converge in the infinity of God.
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Reprinted with permission from the CJCUC
Rabbi Dr. Gerald M. Meister served as the adviser for Israel-Christian affairs in the Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the Israeli Consulate in New York and is a CJCUC lecturer.
“A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.” (Matthew 21:8)
In the 33 AD, almost 2000 years ago, on a Sunday preceding the Feast of Passover, Jesus humbly entered Jerusalem on a back of a donkey and was ceremonially welcomed by many of the Jewish pilgrims who gathered in the town to celebrate the holiday.
The Jews knew him as a great preacher and miracle maker. Thus, greeted him with the words “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Psalm 118:26) and spread on the road in front of him their clothes and tree branches. They took him, however, as their possible political leader, who could free them from the Roman rule, not as the Messiah, whose Kingdom is in Heaven.
The Christian Feast of Palm Sunday solemnizes Jesus’s glorious entry to Jerusalem almost 2000 years ago and marks the beginning of the Holy Week, which commemorates the events which happened before Christ’s death and resurrection.
Join the Celebration
In the Holy Town of Jerusalem, where it all happened, Catholics annually celebrate the Palm Sunday procession to commemorate the great events of the past. Also this year 2013, on Sunday of the 24th of March, the joyful and colorful gathering will follow the way from Bethphage on the Mount of Olives to Saint Anne’s church on the Via Dolorosa. The march will start at 2:30 pm from in front of the Franciscan Church of Bethphage, located in the village where Jesus took the donkey to ride on it into Jerusalem.
The Palm Sunday procession, during which people cary palm or olive tree branches, is commonly known for its full of singing and blessings joyous atmosphere. The rhythmical music of the local scouts usually accompanies the event.
This is an amazing spiritual and cultural experience for all the gathered to follow exactly the way Christ took to enter Jerusalem and meet the fellows in faith from all around the world.
The destination of the march, through the part of Via Dolorosa, is the Church of Saint Anne.
Other Catholic mass services in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday 2013:
- 6:30 am – Jerusalem – Holy Sepulchre: Procession with Palms and Pontifical Mass at Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene
- 2:30 pm – Bethphage – Palm Sunday procession over Mt. of Olives to St. Anne’s Church
- 4 pm – Jerusalem - Holy Sepulchre: Daily Procession
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Beata Andonia works for the Bethlehem tourist bureau and blogs regularly about Bethlehem for Travelujah-Holy Land Tours. She is originally from Poland and moved to Bethlehem in 2010.
This coming Monday evening, Jews around the world will be celebrating Passover. Part of the holiday celebration is taking part in a seder; an elaborate ceremonial meal to retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt. Some of seder food items consist of Matzah (unleavened bread), bitter herbs, and wine. Without going into the step by step process of the evening's rituals, I believe it is more important to understand why we are doing this in the first place.
Passover seder table setting; photo courtesy Wikipedia Commons
WHAT WE PRAY IS WHAT WE BELIEVE
The Jewish prayer book is Judaism's catechism. Lex orandi lex credendi - what we pray is what we believe. As part of the Shema prayer, we read three biblical sections - Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21 & Numbers 15:37-41. It is our proclamation of the existence of the Unity of God; Israel's obligation to be loyal to Him and His word, the affirmation of Rewards and Punishments, and remembering the liberation from Egypt.
Jews remember the Exodus in our daily prayers for God commanded us to do so - that thou mayest remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt ALL the days of thy life (Deuteronomy 16:3). If we are obligated to remember the Exodus every day, then why have the holiday of Passover at all?
The separate Passover mandate is derived from two biblical verses; Exodus 13:3 & 8. However, it is the later verse that gives us insight into the uniqueness of the holiday -And you shall relate to your sons on that day, saying, for the sake of ‘this' God acted for me when I left Egypt. Jewish commentators take this verse literally in the sense that the retelling of the Exodus narrative has to make one feel as if he/she is literally be redeemed from Egypt right now.
The entire seder is designed as a visual and physical aid to help one go through the process of slavery and redemption. Remembrance is every day, but once a year we have to actually come out of Egypt ourselves. Why does God make us go through this process?
In a Book that chronicles the birth of a Jewish nation, it is strange that the Bible begins with the narrative of creation. For those who believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, we take it for granted the concept of God the Creator and Redeemer. However, in the world of Abraham and Sarah, our biblical matriarchs, it was truly revelational that ALL human beings were made in the image of God.
The unity of Heaven created diversity on earth. With over 3 million different species in the world, God intended that diversity would be celebrated. In fact, in the beginning chapters of Genesis, we learn of a world that has 70 languages and God was alright with it.
And the whole land was of one language and of one speech (Genesis 11). Many read these verses and picture ultimate harmony. This is far from the case. Thanks to archeology of today, we know that the world's first empire was ruled by Sargon I, the king of Akkadian (also known as Nimrod in the Bible).
Sargon I imposed his language on all that he conquered. The story is not about harmony, but an attempt to eradicate the local culture. In today's language this is known as cultural imperialism. Their physical structures were narrow at the top and broad at the base; symbolizing that there is one human rule resting on the masses. This philosophy is not biblical.
In a time, where humans imposed their will on the people, God made a covenant with Abraham to carry His message to the world that you do not need power to leave your imprint on the world. He tells Abraham to leave the greatest civilization known to humankind and begin a new movement in a new land. Indeed, Judaism begins as the biggest protest ministry of all time.
Why Abraham? Genesis 18 gives us a glimpse into the "election" - For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just. Throughout all generations, those who follow the Jewish people realized that they have consistently refused to conform to the dominant culture or convert to the dominate faith.
Jews were always going to be a small nation to give hope to all small nations. To tell the world you do not need to be large to be great or powerful to have influence in order to leave your imprint on the world.
COVENANT COMES WITH A PRICE
Usually entitled the Covenant of Pieces in English bibles, God reassures Abraham that he will have children. In this dialogue exchange in Genesis 15, God asks of Abraham to take three heifers, she-goats, rams and two birds. God instructs him to cut the animals in half and leave the birds alone. Soon afterwards; Abraham falls into a deep terrifying sleep that reveals his descendants will be oppressed and enslaved, but at the end will be redeemed by God and He will bring them to the Promised Land.
There is a key word in verse 13 that can give insight into why the Israelites would need to go through such oppression - ger (usually translated as stranger). "Ger" is also used in the first real estate purchase of Israel - when Abraham buys a burial plot for wife Sarah. Abraham approaches Ephron in front of the community and declares: I am a ger and a toshav among you (Genesis 23:4). In most translations the word ger means stranger and toshav is defined as a sojourner. Both words would indicate a short-term residence in the land; with the former term being more transitory than the latter. However, this is not true to the Hebraic origins.
The word ger is derived from the word "gargir;" a berry that is detached from its original source. An example of this can be seen in Genesis 12:10, when Abram needs to leave Israel to live (Hebrew word lagur is used which is derived from the word ger) Egypt due to the famine. Toshav is a term that denotes permanency. The ger and toshav expression appears again in Leviticus 25:23 - And the land shall not be sold in perpetuity; for the land is Mine; for you are gerim and toshavim with Me. Therefore, I would translate ger to mean immigrant and toshav as permanent resident.
What is interesting is that Abraham first identifies himself as an immigrant despite living in the land for almost half of his life. I would have expected him to say he is one of them.
Blessed by God, Abraham is the successful immigrant. He achieves permanence, but not a sense of belonging. Abraham is an outsider; the "other."
Being separate and different, an outsider, appears to be a necessary experience in forming the national conscious of Israel. It may be the very reason for Abraham's descendants to go through slavery and oppression. Facing otherness in Egypt would become the essential ingredient in how we should treat people afterward living in our land. Communal protection is needed for the most vulnerable in society.
A GAME CHANGER
Shepherding Jethro's flock in the desert of Midian, Moses has a God encounter that would transform the rest of his life and the entire world (Exodus Chapter 3). At the Burning Bush scene, Moses is told by God to lead His people out of Egypt. Instead of accepting the mission right away, Moses has some reservations about moving into a leadership role.
The first two attempted arguments Moses presents to God for not accepting the position are "who am I" and by what God name am I being directed by. Answering the first overture, God says "I will be with you... (v. 12)" and in responding to the second question, the Almighty reveals a name that was never mentioned in the past nor will it ever be repeated again - Ehyeh asher Ehyeh. Many translations of this name of God is I Am That I Am.
The first introduction to Ehyeh in the Bible is in a future grammatical tense when Isaac wants to leave Canaan because of the famine and God says to him: Sojourn in this land, and I will be (Ehyeh) with thee (Genesis 26:3). Additionally, Ehyeh is used in Exodus 3:12 in a future tense - God said, I shall be with you. Therefore, I would translate Ehyeh asher Ehyeh as I will be what I will be.
Ehyeh asher Ehyeh is a history game changer for God is going to do something never seen before; taking an entire nation from slavery to freedom. From this expression "hope" was born.
MORE THAN REMEMBRANCE
On Passover night, we have the opportunity to fully comprehend the significance of that redemptive moment from slavery. I cannot be who I am today without God's faithfulness to His covenantal promise.
When introducing the Sinatic Revelation, God presents Himself as the Redeemer - one who took you out from Egypt (Exodus 20:2). He is a personal God, One that is part of human history. Therefore, when we recount the Exodus story, it is not simply a historical recollection. We are literally acting out the Exodus!
Eating matzah is the external reminder of slave's most basic food; no additions or flavorings. However, it was also the food made in haste when we were being freed from Egypt. The bitter herbs touch upon our sense of taste in giving a clue of the harshness created by our Egyptian oppressors. Drinking the four cups of wine gives is the taste freedom's sweetness.
While Passover is the English translation of Pesach, I prefer the translation of this Hebrew word as "protection" as stated in Isaiah 31:5. This is consistent with the context of what actually occurred that night. If we pay attention to Exodus 12:23, we have two characters; God and the Destroyer. The Almighty ensures those who have heeded His commandment to put the paschal blood on the doorpost that the Destroyer will not enter to smite you. God, in His infinite mercy, protected the Israelites during the plaque of the firstborn like that of a mother bird protecting her young.
Beginning as a protest movement in where God tells Abraham to leave a civilization that imposes human will over the masses ends up as a redemptive revolution of a collective nation to celebrate God in complete freedom. The Pesach holiday is more than just getting together for an unusual family dinner.
God, in His revelational name of Ehyeh asher Ehyeh, wants free worship of free human beings. To truly express this freedom, it must be done in a covenanted land that demands a nation to take care of the most vulnerable of society. The instructional blueprint of this freedom can only be found in God's Word by a people who willing to commit loyalty to it. The Torah is more than miracles, revelation and faith. They contain laws, commandments and rules by which we build a just and free society.
God is faithful to His promises! Can we acknowledge what He has done for us and carry His message to the world? The slavery and redemption we experience Monday evening, will it take us to a place to bring God's kingdom here on earth? Are we willing to partner with the Divine and internally process what it means to be the other in order to truly help one another even outside our faith community? God took us out from Egypt; it is our sacred task to take the trappings of Egypt out from us.
Happy Pesach! Let Freedom Ring!
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David Nekrutman is the Executive Director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation in Efrat, Israel. All comments or questions should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christians visiting the Holy Land in the spring sometimes fail to appreciate the link between Passover and Easter: Jesus came to Jerusalem in April circa 34, making his triumphal entry on the Sunday of the last fateful week of his life, in order to offer a Passover sacrifice at Herod's magnificent newly-built Temple.
He celebrated the Passover seder feast that Thursday night, an event commonly referred to as the Last Supper. Returning with his apostles to their encampment at Gethsemane on the nearby Mount of Olives, he was arrested that evening after being betrayed by Judas.
On Friday, the holy day of Passover, Jesus was tried and then crucified. His corpse was hurriedly placed in a new sepulcher or family tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea near to the Skull Hill execution grounds (believed by some to be located adjacent to what is known as the Garden Bomb) to so as not to violate the Sabbath that began Friday shortly before sundown. Sunday morning it was discovered that the rolling stone sealing Jesus' tomb had been shifted, and the sepulcher was empty. Jesus had arisen.
When it came to actually specifying the date in which Easter would be celebrated annually, the Church fathers wanted the holiday to closely follow Passover, after all, that was when Christ died. But interestingly, in determining the date of Easter, Christianity did not make Easter's date dependent on Passover and, in fact there are years when Easter falls almost a full month in advance of Passover. Why?
This is because Judaism follows a lunar calendar comprising twelve lunar months of 29 to 30 days in length with the new moon marking the beginning of each month and the full moon occurring halfway through the month. Because the lunar calendar is shorter than the solar calendar, over time the Jewish calendar falls out of line with the seasons which is why an additional month is added to the Jewish calendar very few years.
Western Catholics, including Roman Catholics and Protestants, celebrate Easter on the Sunday immediately following the paschal full moon that occurs on or after the spring equinox. These dates are fixed in advance according to the Ecclestiastical full moon schedule that was set in 1583A.D. and can vary from the date of the Paschal full moon by up to two days. If the full moon falls on a Sunday, then Easter is the following Sunday. It can fall anywhere March 22 and April 25, and this year it falls on March 31.
The Eastern or Orthodox Churches base their holiday calculations on the Julian calendar rather than the revised Gregorian calendar, adopted by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. Unlike the Gregorian calendar, The Julian calendar does not take into account the extra day every fourth leap year. Consequently, both the Western and Eastern churches only occasionally celebrate Easter on the same day. This year the Orthodox church celebrates Easter a full five weeks after Roman Catholics and Protestants - Sunday, May 5.