God continues the plagues against Egypt, this time with locusts followed by the three days of complete darkness. Yet Pharaoh is still unmoved, although he has been asked by his officials to let the people go because Egypt is being destroyed.
Pharaoh tells Moses that the next time he sees his face, he will die, and Moses pretty much says “That’s fine with me.”
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The last plague now comes, the death of all the firstborn throughout Egypt. God gives Moses the instructions about how the Israelites are to protect themselves from the Destroyer coming at midnight, and also that this is now the first month of their year. He instructs them regarding the Passover lamb and the eating of unleavened bread for the week after the Seder.
Moses also has the people go to their Egyptian neighbors asking for what are essentially the spoils of war, and the Egyptians are happy to give all they have, all their valuables, in order to get these people out of their land.
Finally, after the firstborn of the royal family is dead, Pharaoh ejects the Israelites from the land, and they leave in such haste that they don’t even allow their dough to rise, so they have to bake the unrisen dough, which is what we call “matzo.”
Actually, they weren’t supposed to have any yeast in the dough, anyway.
The life of a thing is in the blood (Lev. 17:10); the blood that was brushed onto the lintels of the houses of the Israelites was life for them. God tells us many times throughout the Tanakh that it is by the life that is in the blood which provides us atonement for sin.
Blood is a double-edged sword because we need it to stay alive, but blood-borne diseases can kill us. In today’s scientific world, we know that harmful germs and bacteria can be spread through the blood, just like Chametz (leavening) can spread through a batch of dough. So even though God tells us that blood is life, it may also cause death.
But how can that be? Blood is used to anoint and sanctify the holy items in the Tabernacle, which are used to worship God! If there is death in blood, how can it be used to sanctify?
This is sort of like the red heifer thing (Numbers 19): everything associated with creating the water of sanctification from the ashes of the red heifer, which is used to cleanse us, caused the person performing the actions to become unclean.
I think this is all part of the universal balance God created when he created the universe. Blood is what transports life, and when we care for our blood by doing what God tells us to do, the blood remains free of death. But, when we disobey or reject God’s instructions, that which brings life will bring death.
For an example, let’s look at the Laws of Kashrut: the one main difference between kosher animal meat and the rest is that to prepare the meat, the animal is killed in a humane way (called the Shechita) which drains the blood quickly. Then the meat is salted to draw out any of the remaining blood. Once this is done, the meat is always cooked thoroughly.
You won’t find someone getting a bloody steak at a kosher restaurant.
This obedience to God’s instructions regarding the eating of blood is what keeps our blood free of pathogens. On the other hand, rejecting this ordinance will likely result (especially in the olden days, way before the USDA) in some form of infection.
Look at what is happening today: in China, they have long had to worry about SARS, but now this new virus, the Coronavirus is absolutely deadly. In Africa, the Bush Meat trade is what caused AIDS. And science shows that drinking clean blood can still lead to death.
Blood can be life-giving, or life-taking, depending on how you treat it. The same is true with the Torah: through obedience, we can achieve everlasting life, but rejection of God’s instructions will result in death. This is why Moses told the people (Deut. 30: 15-20) it is up to them to choose life (through obedience) or to choose death (through rejection) of the instructions God gave in the Torah.
There are many things in your life that will carry one result or another, and it is up to you to choose the right way. Argue with your boss or keep your job; argue with your spouse or sleep in the bed; drive safely or have your car in the shop; do as we are told to do in the Torah or spend eternity in suffering.
Last Minute Edit: I am not ignoring the Messiah and his sacrifice, or that it is through faith that we are saved. True faith in God and the Messiah must lead to Torah obedience. We can’t be saved by Torah alone, but Messiah’s sacrifice never did away with the requirement by God to obey his instructions.
Blood can provide life or death, depending on how we choose to treat it. The Torah is our spiritual blood, which provides eternal life when we obey it, and death by ignoring it.
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Until next time, Shabbat Shalom and Baruch HaShem!