Parashat Pesach Shabbat– Erev Shabbat 7 April 2023 (5783)
Torah portion: Ex. 33:12-34:26; Num. 28:19-25 Haftarah: Ezek. 37:1-14
Theme: Chol and Moed.
Pesach this year starts on Wednesday, April 5. So, by the time of rhe Shabbat Eve on April 7, the first excitement of thePesach celebration has worn off and people have already returned to at least some of their daily tasks. This year Pesach Shabbat is truly a Shabbat Chol haMoed day, a mixture of a festive day (moed) and an ordinary day (chol).
The reading for Pesach Shabbat reflects that mixed chol and moed character very well. There is certainly moedin the description of how to celebrate the three pilgrimage festivals, including Pesach (Ex. 34:22-26; Num. 28:19-25). There is a feeling of moed also in the description of how God appears to Moses (Ex. 33:17-34:19) and how God establishes his covenant with his people (Ex. 34:10-20).
But then there are elements in this covenant that sound decidedly chol or ordinary, non-celebratory. It talks about living in the land, marrying with the local peoples, and avoiding the local deities. In these descriptions gone is the excitement of seeing the first plagues, stepping into the departed sea, and hearing God’s voice at the mountain. Today’s parashah is not so much about God’s deliverance and miracles, but how to live with the knowledge of it, how to remember it.
On the Eve of Pesach the readings are about the events on the first Pesach and the escaping to Mount Sinai.The Pesach Shabbat reading is about life after the first big fallout between God and his people, the Golden Calf. Before this fall Moses went up the Mountain several times, up to the very top of it (Ex. 19:20). After the Golden Calfincident, Moses is not at the top of the mountain, he is hidden in a narrow cleft of the rock, waiting for God’s glory to pass by (Ex. 33:21-23). Pesach Shabbat does not necessarily say that the people are unworthy of God’s revelation, rather it shows that the daily life of ups and downs,and of falling and repenting has begun. Rabbi Motzkin Rubenstein comments on today’s passage: “…this is where we inhabit most of our reality: not at the peak spiritual moments of either redemption, or revelation. Those only come occasionally, and last for but a flash. More often, we are in the cleft of the rock…” (R.S. Motzkin Rubenstein, “Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach Torah 5777”).
As Christians we are still to experience the moed of Christ’s resurrection, but after that we will have our own cholof Easter Tuesday, Wednesday and beyond. This parashah is a good reminder that God is in the chol as well as in the moed, in our daily lives just as much as in our peak spiritual experiences.
Have a blessed Easter and may you succeed in taking the joy of the resurrection festivities into your day-to-day lives!
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. Compare interaction between God and Moses before the Golden Calf incident in Ex. 19 and after it in Ex. 33-34! 2. Why, do you think, was Ex. 33-34 chosen for the Shabbat during the Pesach festive season? 3. Reflect on how you have taken/can take your peak spiritual experiences into your daily life!
Bibliography: R.S. Motzkin Rubenstein, “Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach Torah 5777” https://www.tbieugene.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Shabbat-Chol-haMoed-PesachTorah-5777.pdf
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Rota Stone, New Zealand, Bat Kol Alumna: 2002, 2003