Tonight marks the beginning of the holiday of Passover (the Festival of Matzo) -- a holiday mandated in the Torah to be observed for eternity.
Passover marks in a very real way the birth of the Jewish people. Passover is commanded in the Torah Sh'mot / Exodus 12:14-15 "This day must be one that you will remember. You must keep it as a festival to G-d for all generations. It is a law for all time that you must celebrate it. Eat matzo (unleavened bread) for seven days. By the first day, you must have your homes cleared of all leaven. Whoever eats leaven from the first day until the seventh day will have הַנֶּ֤פֶשׁ / hanefesh / his life cut off from Israel."
For all generations.
It is a law for all time that you must celebrate it.
We come together with our families and loved ones to retell the story of our slavery in Egypt and our freedom -- indeed the very birth of the Jewish nation truly begins with the Exodus from Egypt.
Before the Exodus from Egypt there was Abraham, who had a covenant with G-d, and his son Isaac who also had a contract with G-d, and Jacob as well -- the patriarchs of the Jewish nation.
As part of the Passover the entire Jewish nation heard G-d speak (some 3 million people at Sinai) and we committed to the covenant -- not our fathers, not individual people -- but the entire Jewish nation in a very real sense "converted" and became Jewish at that time. "ויענו כל העם יחדו ויאמרו כל אשר דבר ה' נעשה" “And all the people answered together and said, ‘All that G‑d has spoken we will do.’ ” (Sh'mot / Exodus 19:8).
We went to Egypt as a free nation, through the aid of Joseph. But through time, as we grew numerous, the Egyptians began to worry that, due to our numbers, they had to fear us. Thus there was a Pharaoh who "knew not Joseph" and enslaved us.
The Hebrew name for Egypt is מִצְרַיִם / Mitzrayim.
מִצְרַיִם / Mitzrayim is related to the term מיצר / meitzar, which refers to boundaries, restrictions and limitations.
Consider what it means to be limited -- to have obstacles put in your way. מִצְרַיִם is a place (Egypt) but it is also a state of mind -- where we limit ourselves from being what we can be, enslaved by our own minds and souls -- trapped. We are tied down, each of us, whether we are physically free or not -- and far too often we enslave ourselves.
Jerusalem / יְרוּשָׁלַיִם means “the city of peace.
So מִצְרַיִם / Mitzrayim means slavery, boundaries, restrictions -- and Jerusalem / יְרוּשָׁלַיִם means “the city of peace.
Ponder that. Jerusalem is a holy place because of what it symbolizes -- freedom, peace. . .
Thus the Exodus from Egypt was more than just a physical leaving from the land of that generation. In every generation we are enslaved -- and far too often we enslave ourselves by the choices that we make, or the self imposed limitations we create.
Passover reminds us that the Exodus is for US -- not for those ancient ancestors, but for US. Passover is both a retelling of that ancient freedom, and also that every year each of us has the ability to free ourselves from slavery -- from all limitations.
The Torah commands us to tell our children of what G-d did for us on this day. In the הַגָּדָה / Haggadah (the telling) we read: "We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the L-rd, our G‑d, took us out from there with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm. If the Holy One, blessed be He, had not taken our fathers out of Egypt, then we, our children and our children's children would have remained enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt. Even if all of us were wise, all of us understanding, all of us knowing the Torah, we would still be obligated to discuss the exodus from Egypt; and everyone who discusses the exodus from Egypt at length is praiseworthy."
Passover reminds us that before He freed us from Egypt with a mighty hand G-d sent many tests and plagues --- to strengthen us to be worth of freedom. Did G-d really have to "harden Pharaoh's heart" (strengthen Pharaoh's own inclinations) or "convince" Pharaoh to free the Jews?
Of course not.
So why would G-d have gone through so many steps?
Because it takes time for people to change. The Jews were used to being slaves -- The Jews had to want the freedom. They had to take steps of their own to help themselves become free.
The very last plague -- where the Jews had to take a young goat or lamb, keep it in their homes for four days, slaughter it, put the blood on the door posts and eat the god of the Egyptians as an act of defiance of them (and of trust in G-d) is not something we can even imagine them doing when Moses first arrives back in Egypt.
The Jews needed to learn bravery and to learn to be free. This is the true story, the true miracle of the Passover. The הַגָּדָה / Haggadah (the telling) perceives of four children asking what Passover means to them. The Torah speaks of four children: One is wise, one is wicked, one is simple and one does not know how to ask. The הַגָּדָה / Haggadah asks the four questions -- and the wicked son asks "What is this service to you?!" He says `to you,' but not to him! By thus excluding himself from the community he has denied that which is fundamental. You, therefore, blunt his teeth and say to him: "It is because of this that the L-rd did for me when I left Egypt"; `for me' - but not for him! If he had been there, he would not have been redeemed!"
It is for what G-d did for ME, when I went forth from Egypt.
Let each of us, Jew and Gentile, think and realize that every day we are enslaved. Each day is a new begining and each of us has the chance to be free.
At the end of the Passover Service, as we conclude the הַגָּדָה / Haggadah (the telling), we say "Next year in Jerusalem!" We mean the city -- but even those living in Jerusalem say "next year in Jerusalem." We mean -- next year may the messiah come, may the whole world be at peace, may all people (not just Jews) know G-d and may all be free.
May you have a blessed Passover, full of joy and family. May you truly be free and bless G-d for your freedom. חַג כָּשֵׁר וְשָׂמֵחַ -- may you have a happy and kosher Passover.
The paschal (goat or lamb) was a celebratory offer of thanksgiving to G-d. Passover (the Festival of Matzo) is an eight-day festival celebrated in the early spring, from the 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nissan.
It had nothing to do with sin.
It had nothing to do with atoning for anything.
It commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. And, by following the rituals of Passover, we have the ability to relive and experience the true freedom that our ancestors gained.
When we have a Temple, and can bring sacrifices, we are commanded to keep the goat or lamb for four days (Sh'mot / Exodus 12:3 - 6) from Nisan 10 to Nisan 14. It was slaughtered on the 14th, roasted and then eaten that same night (which was now the 15th of Nisan as days begin at Sundown).
The Passover aka paschal goat or lamb -- usually a goat -- (the פֶּ֛סַח / pesach) offer is mentioned in D'varim (Deuteronomy) 16:2: "You shall slaughter the (פֶּ֛סַח) paschal sacrifice to HaShem, your G-d, [of the] flock, and [the Festival sacrifices of the] cattle, in the place which HaShem will choose to establish His Name therein."
We do not bring the sacrifices now because we do not have the place which HaShem will choose. That "place" was the Temple, and we do not have a Temple thus we are forbidden from bringing sacrifices for now.
But note that the Passover sacrifice had to be kept for four days, slaughtered, roasted and eaten. . . as part of the festival.
Yes, Passover is a festival as in CELEBRATION. The festival sacrifices are mentioned in the verses in Numbers (Bambidar / Numbers 28:16 - 17 "The 14th day of the first month (Nisan) is G-d's Passover. Then, on the 15th day, a festival shall begin, when matzo (unleavened bread) shall be eaten for seven days." ).
A festival shall begin.
Not a sad time.
Not a time of sin and repentance and atonement.
The paschal lamb was not a sin sacrifice (other wise called a חַטָּ֖את -- a chatat -- is an offering for a "missing of the mark" or accidental sin.
Torah tells us clearly that the sacrifice is part of a CELEBRATION, a festival -- a rejoicing -- to remember our freedom from slavery.
Sh'mot / Exodus 12:14 "This day must be one that you will remember. You must keep it as a festival to G-d for all generations. It is a law for all time that you must celebrate it."
There it is again: festival.
Why did G-d command that we keep a goat or lamb for four days, then slaughter it, roast it and eat it?
It had nothing to do with sin and everything to do with showing our trust in G-d (that He would protect us from the Egyptians who would kill us for the very idea of killing and eating an animal they worshiped as a god. Moses says to Pharaoh: Sh'mot / Exodus 8:22 "What we will sacrifice to HaShem our L-rd is sacred to the Egyptians. Could we sacrifice the sacred animal of the Egyptians before their very eyes and not have them stone us?"
Torah says that the Passover sacrifice be a male-goat, be offered on an individual (per household) basis (Bamidbar / Numbers 28:22), not as a communal offering.
According to the Christian bible, Jesus death (termed a sin sacrifice) expiated the sins of mankind (Romans 6:10; Hebrews 9:12, 10:10, 10:18 ). Jesus is considered a "sacrificial lamb" and is called the "lamb of god" Ἀμνὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ, Amnos tou Theou; Latin: Agnus Dei is found in the Gospel of John1:29. John the Baptist sees Jesus and says, "Behold the lamb of god who takes away the sin of the world."
Then 1 Corinthians 5:7 in the Christian bible says "(Jesus), our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed."
Yet the Passover goat or lamb was a celebratory offering -- if Jesus died for sins as a sacrifice (ignoring that human sacrifice is forbidden) he can't be linked to the paschal sacrifice which had nothing to do with sin and everything to do with celebration!
Moses clearly tells Pharaoh (and us) that the animal to be sacrificed by the Jews is sacred (e.g. a G-d) to the Egyptians. The paschal lamb (or sheep) has nothing whatsoever to do with atoning for sins. In Egypt it was an affront to the Egyptians -- the slaughtering of their ram god. After the Exodus it was a remembrance and celebration.
Some say that the Egyptian Kevatim would worship the Zodiac sign of the sheep (what today we call Aries). To this end, they banned the slaughter of sheep and despised sheep traders and shepherds (Sh'mot / Ex.8:22, B'reshit / Genesis 46:34) .... By sacrificing their "god" (sheep / goat) the Jews were insulting the Egyptians and proving they trusted that G-d would protect them from the Egyptians as they insulted them. . .
There are other offers brought during the Passover holiday . They are mentioned in Bambidar (Numbers) 28:18-25. In addition to the various celebratory offerings—every festive occasion also had completely separate “atonement” offerings (sacrifices). These other sacrifices are all public, communal offerings that were made throughout the year for “atonement."
Not ONE of them was ever a lamb.
Nope, no lamb for "forgiveness of sins."
All holy days had a list of sacrifices some of which were sin, some guilt, some the daily offering, etc. The list of sacrifices also re-enforces the fact that atonement to G-d is an ONGOING process not a one time "last and final" sacrifice. That concept makes no sense since people make mistakes every day and mistakes often = accidental sins, or even perhaps more serious errors.