Shabbat Table Talk
Erev Pesach – 31st March
Week of 25 March – 01 April 2018
Torah portion: Exodus 12:21-51 Haftarah: Josh. 3 :5-7; 5 :2-6:1; 6:27
Both Jewish and Christian communities are celebrating the highpoint of the religious calendar this week, namely the feast of Pesach.
In the Jewish liturgy, instead of usual parashat hashavuah, we have a potpourri of Torah texts assigned to the Shabbat and the individual days of the week. Thus Pesach I: Ex 12, 21-51; II: Lev 22, 26 -23, 44; III: Ex 13, 1-16; IV: Ex 22, 24-23, 19; V: Ex 34, 1-26; VI: Num 9, 1-14; and VII: Ex 13, 17-15, 26. For the ensuing Shabbat, which is the octave of Pesach, Deut 14, 22-16, 17 is assigned. The Torah texts alternate between the recollection of Passover night of Israel (Ex 12, 21-15, 26), the day in which YHWH delivered His people from the bondage of the tyrant Pharaoh and the commandment to keep the feasts of YHWH at the appointed times (moedim) of the year, namely the weekly Shabbats, the Passover together with Unleavened Bread, the feast of Ingathering of First fruits, and the feast of Weeks. It has become customary to read Num 28, 16-25 as maftir on all the eight days of Pesach. The latter text stipulates the specific sacrificial legislation for the Passover. All these show the paramount importance the feast holds for Judaism.
Hashem wanted this prodigy to be remembered in all generations. Torah repeatedly mandates its commemoration every year on 14 Nisan (Lev 23, 5; Num 9, 1f., Deut 16, 1f.) in the families. Pesach was celebrated at the historical milestones at a national/state level such as entry into the Eretz (Josh 5, 1f.) or during great renewal program under Hezekiah (2 Chr 30, 1f.) and Josiah (2 Ki 23, 21f; 2 Chr 35, 11f), return of the exiles (Ezr 6, 19-21). This has become memoriam perpetua for Israel. This is the night of freedom from the tyrant Pharaoh as well as from the clasp of Death that will fall upon Egyptians. It also marks the birth of Israel as a nation, bringing to an end their centuries-old slavery in Egypt, 430 years as Torah recalls (Ex 12, 40; cf. Gen 15, 13). Both Hashem and the people of Israel worked for this “freedom in depth” (N. Leibowitz, New Studies in Shemot , Bo, 3). They audaciously defied Egyptian prohibition of slaughtering goats on superstitious traditions, while YHWH through His angel struck the first born of the Egyptians.
Pharaoh woke up in the middle of the night to the cry of Egypt over the slain. He hurriedly summoned Moses and pleaded him to leave Egypt as Moses had demanded earlier. Pharaoh’s tyranny and hubris is flattened to utter humiliation as he acknowledges for the first time the people as being Israel (Ex 12, 31- Etz Hayim) thereby acknowledging their right to be a free and self-governing people with its rules and roles. Left to themselves, however, Israel will become a free people only when they receive the Torah and enter into covenant with YHWH on the Mount Sinai.
The protective power of the blood of the lamb is integral to the memory of feast. When the terminator angel struck the houses of their Egyptian masters causing the death of all firstborns of humans and animal alike, the children of Israel and their livestock were warded off by the blood of the Passover lamb daubed on the doorframes of their houses. The celebration takes its name from the “Pesach” of YHWH, the passing over of the houses of the Israel, because of the blood of the Lamb (Ex 12, 23).
Christians all over the world are celebrating the Paschal Triduum, the zenith and font of Church’s life. Through a thoughtfully carved and evoking Liturgy, the assembly of the faithful relive the sacred mystery of the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus and appropriate for themselves the unfathomable grace of communion with God and reconciliation with fellow human beings and with all of God’s creation.
The Paschal liturgy of the Christians, especially Easter vigil which falls on the night of the Shabbat-Sunday is rich with readings taken from TN”K and the New Testament. Especially noteworthy is the text of Ex 12 and 14-15 find their central place in the Liturgies of the LORD’s SUPPER on Holy Thursday and Easter vigil on Holy Saturday respectively. The prodigious acts of God in the TN”K are particularly helpful in illumining the mystery of redemption wrought through Christ Jesus in the New Testament. The Resurrection, the fulcrum of Christian faith, conversely illumine the significance of TN”K for Christians. The mutuality between these texts point to the in-depth bond that exists between the two traditions.
This week’s teaching commentary is by
Msgr. James Raphael Anaparambi, PhD, Kerala, India. Bat Kol Alum 2009
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Bat Kol Institute for Jewish Studies, Jerusalem
“Christians Studying the Bible within its Jewish milieu, using Jewish Sources.”