Once again, it’s time to hear from our sister in Jerusalem about what she is witnessing there as a believer in Yeshua. Put your prayer shawls on and pray for Israel and Sister J. Now here she is …
Greetings with love in The Name of Yeshua h’Meshiach, The Lord, Who overcame both death AND life, sin AND our own self righteousness and Who through His great love and mercy has called us – unworthy as we are – to catch a glimpse and be a part of such an intricate and WONDERful plan. May HE be blessed and glorified, and may you be blessed.
I ache over this letter…Passover (Pesach) #2…because I have been writing to you daily in my head and have so much to share on so many levels and yet time constraints will not allow it to happen. May The Lord grant great grace to share something that will add to each of us.
Passover is the biggest time of Jewish year. According to Exodus 12 and 13 it is to be the BEGINNING of the year for us [Exodus 12:2], and how that changed I do not know, but however many of us still say to one another, “shana toga” (a good new year) anyway. Passover is usually considered the beginning of the nation and the people of Israel, and we are told all through the Bible to look back to the deliverance from Egypt and not to return to captivity there in.
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood and I have given it to you upon the alter to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” (Leviticus 17:11)
“And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no remission.” (Hebrews 9:22)
Blood is a mystery. We recoil from it. Many of Yeshua’s followers turned their backs on Him when He told them that in order to live we must eat His flesh and drink His blood [Jn. 6:53] – a mystery way beyond the understanding in the flesh as it can only be spiritually discerned.
On the 10th day of the month (of Nissan), the pure male unblemished lamb was to be taken into the home. One lamb for each house. It was to be examined closely for defects. Today is the 10th day of Nissan and I awoke this morning thinking about what it was like to take the little pure, innocent lamb into the family and live with it until the 14th day. Then to shed it’s blood. I have thought of it over the years as the cost of sin and the price of freedom. MY sin. MY freedom. WHAT A PRICE! BLOOD. With the life in it. And how many of Yeshua’s followers and even DISCIPLES participated in His death? What of Judas, who lived with Him?
And so, you know the story well. The Israelites were told to kill the lamb and place it’s blood on the lintel of the door posts. Only those who stayed INSIDE, protected by the blood, would be spared as the death angel passed over, as he went through the land of Egypt killing every first born, from the animals to people. In the homes of slaves even to the house of Pharaoh.
We can only marvel as we remember Yeshua – the perfect, innocent Lamb of God, the only begotten Son of The King, being lead as a Lamb to the slaughter on Passover. I can not begin to touch the intricacies of the first and last Passover and how perfectly they are intertwined.
But I was surprised at how many of you asked after the first email that I elaborate on some of the customs of the Passover itself. I thought you would be tired of them by now. So much is available on the internet for you to read, but do keep in mind that there are great variations in traditions concerning the Seder (that word means order as in the order of the service) and even the food that is considered kosher for Passover.
When I was a child growing up in New York there were not many foods available that were kosher for Passover where we lived. There was matzo (the unleavened bread, striped and pierced), matzo meal (or matzo flour) and a special Passover cookie (macaroons). Aside from that there was not much. We ate a lot of eggs, fish and chicken. The matzo was covered with chicken fat (schmaltz) and salt (TERRIBLY unhealthy…it was poor people’s butter).
We would store our every day dishes and silverware in a remote back storage area and out would come the special best Passover dishes and silverware reserved only for Passover. The ancient haggadot (traditional book read at the Seder) passed down from my Grandparents, appeared with their curious woodcuts and drawings. Our family would gather for the very special meal with my father leaning on a pillow in a comfortable chair while sitting at the head of the table. He looked so deserving of respect. We children admired him. Our mother sat at the other head of the table beaming. She would light the Shabat candles and we would all wash our hands in a basin and wipe one another’s hands. I think of Yeshua washing His disciples feet at that last Seder.
The law of the Passover is laid out in Exodus 12 and 13 and basically tells us that no LEAVEN is to be found in any of our homes. No leavened bread is to be eaten but only unleavened bread for 7 days. I have always understood leaven to be an agent that is added to something to make it rise (ferment), ie: yeast, baking powder, baking soda. Many of our people extend that to anything that CAN rise or puff up, such as flour, corn, beans, rice, peas (legumes). The list is L-O-N-G. HOWEVER, here in Israel we have ABUNDANCE of creative foods that LOOK risen or leavened to me (puffed up with air, filled with beaten egg whites or other things). So we lack for NOTHING.
As I have shared in previous letters, Jews are divided into two distinct ethnic groups according to the areas that they resided in during the 2,000 year dispersion. The Jews that settled toward the Orient (and Arab) or Spanish and North African areas are called Sephardic. The Jews that settled in the Western European areas are called Ashkenazi. The traditions are quite different in these two groups. THEN there are also major differences inside of each group. For example: Yemenite Jews have different traditions from Persian Jews although both are Sephardic. Plus, there are differences from family to family.
Of course, each is sure that theirs is right and best.
Certain things are pretty standard. The Seder dinner begins at sundown on the 14th of the month of Nissan. This year it will be on this coming Monday.
Special prayers have been continuing for a month already and people have been searching their hearts for leaven. At the same time people have been cleansing their homes of leaven. In simpler times when people had very few possessions, families would just throw everything out and break dishes and replace them least there be some hidden crumbs. Still, the streets are currently full of household items that people put out and replace.
In certain areas huge outdoor cauldrons bubble away over an open fire to immerse pots and pans to be koshered for the holiday for those who can’t just replace them. The extent of the cleaning hit a crisis several years back when a number of women killed themselves or lost their minds, fearful that there might be a crumb left in an inevitable crack in the stone floor or old window casing. So the rabbis began to teach moderation in ridding of all hometz (leaven), but MOSTLY in our hearts.
There has been a concerted attempt to moderate the intensity with which the task is taken on. Nonetheless, most people scrub as much as possible to obey the command that was given – and confirmed again and again – unto ALL generations.
“It is a night of solemn observances to the Lord for bringing them out of the land of Egypt. This is that night of the Lord, a solemn observance for all the children of Israel throughout their generations.” (Exodus 12:42)
Our homes are scrubbed and purged of leaven. Our markets either close or seal off with shrink wrap or other prohibiting materials entire sections that contain food forbidden for Passover. By LAW these may not be tampered with. More and more older people simply seal their homes and move to a hotel for the week as the task has become too difficult. The hearts have been prepared with much prayer and that special hush that I have tried to describe so often descends as people dressed in their very finest holiday garb gather together – often very large groups – to partake together in the rituals surrounding the Seder itself.
The Seder is a time to tell the story and to pass it along to the children and to the generation to come.
This will be written for the generation to come That a people yet to be created may praise the Lord.” (Psalm 102:18)
The meal, which lasts for many hours, begins as mine did when I was a child. Although there are traditional haggadot, handed down since the middle ages, more and more people are re-writing them to be more meaningful as the old ones can be terribly cryptic.
As believers there are many haggadot written to show to our children the wonderfully woven covenants, the faithfulness of God and how He NEVER changes and His way is revealed to us all. There is wonderful singing and rejoicing at these special meals, which last until midnight or later.
To walk in the streets of Jerusalem anytime during the night is an absolute wonder and joy to hear the streets ringing with song rising first from one apartment and then another. There are jobs for the children. The 4 questions are asked – the story is re-told. There is a wonderful tradition that points to Yeshua. It brings me chills each year as I realize that our people don’t see yet what it means.
At the beginning of the Seder, 3 pieces of matzo are placed in a special holder. The leader of the Seder takes the center one…the striped and pierced bread without leaven and breaks it. He replaces one half in the holder and the other half will be HIDDEN AWAY until the end of the feast. The children must search for it and whoever finds it gets a prize. No one knows where this tradition came from but it so points to Yeshua.
To my great regret, I must close this email now. I told you that I was grieved that this letter would not be sufficient. There is just no more time left to write and yet so much more to share. I likely won’t get to write again until after the Seder. In the mean time, our nation stands at a critical brink again. The world pulls one way and God commands another – sound familiar? And yet, with no more time to write, I bid you goodnight (laila tov!). I covet your prayers and stand in prayer with you: Thy kingdom come…THY will be done…on earth as it is in heaven. God bless and encourage you as we give thanks for The Blood of The Lamb and our freedom in Him.
your sis J