Pesach Shabbat Erev Shabbat 2 April 2021
Week of 28 March – 3 April 2021
Torah portion: Exodus 33:12- 34 :26  Haftarah: 2 Samuel 22 :1-51
Theme: New Beginnings

This Parasha falls within the eight days of Pesach, i.e. the seventh day which is also the Shabbat – a double celebration. The reading taken from Exodus describes three significant events according to Fox (New York: 1997).

The first of these events is “Moshe’s Plea and God’s Answer” (33:12-34:3). What is Moshe’s plea? For me there are echoes of Abraham’s pleading with the Lord to save Sodom and Gomorrah in this passage: “Pray let my Lord not be upset that I speak further just this one time:” (Gen 18:32). Moshe says to the LORD that he has told him to lead this people but that the LORD has not told him whom he will send with him (referring to Exod 32:34f.). Moshe reminds the LORD that the he knows his Name and that he has found favour with the LORD. “If I have pray, found favour in your eyes, pray let me know your ways; that I may truly know you…” Moshe reminds the LORD that “this nation is indeed your people!” (33:13). He reminds the LORD twice more that these are “your people” (v. 16). Six times the verb “know” accompanied by “pray” and “favour” are repeated, showing Moshe’s desire for intimacy and the bonded relationship of the covenant.

The second event is God’s revelation of God-self to Moshe (34:4-9). Fox describes this revelation is “a statement of God’s essence, or more precisely of his essence for human beings: merciful but just” (Ibid, p. 450). There is no physical manifestation of God – “only words, which describe God’s relationship to human beings” (Ibid). In the post-biblical period these “Thirteen Attributes” became central to the Jewish penitential liturgy for the High Holy Days, festivals and fast days – hence this reading for Shabbat Pesach.

The third event is “The New Covenant” (34:10-28/26). In this section God responds to Moshe’s plea to accompany and pardon the Israelites by restoring the covenant. God promises to drive out those who inhabit Canaan, so that the land will be free for them to settle on. In this covenantal relationship the Israelites must not form alliances with these people; and they promise to follow a set of commandments similar, but not identical, to those of Exodus 24.

‘New beginnings’ seem to be the theme of this reading and the time which we are celebrating – Pesach – the Passover from slavery of all kinds to the freedom of the people of the LORD God. It coincides with the Christian remembering (making present again) of Jesus’ passion, death and Resurrection as the Passover from sin and death to Eternal life. These rituals also entail penitential liturgies, festivals and fast days as part of the preparation for the High Holy Day of Jesus’ Resurrection – the bestowal of New Life which is offered to all who repent and believe.

For Reflection and Discussion: 1.How does this reading enhance your appreciation of your Jewish heritage? 2. Does this reflection add richness to your celebration of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday? How?

Bibliography: Eskenasi, Weiss: The Torah: A Women’s Commentary (New York: 2008); Fox, Everett: The Five Books of Moses (New York: 1997).

This week’s Parashah Commentary was prepared by
Bernadette Teresa Chellew, South Africa, Bat Kol Alumna: 2008



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