As we continue with the plagues against Egypt, God sends locusts, three days of darkness, and the final and most terrible plague, the death of the firstborn.
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Before the angel of death passes, Pharaoh tells Moses that the next time Moses sees his face, he will die, and Moses says that is fine with him, but since Pharaoh has changed his mind all these times and still refuses to let the Israelites go, the final plague will be the death of all the firstborn of Egypt, from the lowliest animal to the son of the Pharaoh, himself.
God gives Moses the instructions regarding the lamb’s blood and how the Seder is to be performed. He tells Moses this is the first day of their year from now on, and that when they leave they are to ask for jewels and valuables from the Egyptians, who were more than happy to give so long as the people leave.
After the firstborn die, and Pharaoh tells Moses that all the people and all they have are to leave his land, God tells Moses that from now on every firstborn child or animal is to belong to God, as redemption for all the firstborn God took away from the Egyptians. Later we will see that this redemption was made through a tax.
I wanted to talk about how God kept his word to Moses when in Exodus 12:12 he said he would bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt, as well as Pharaoh, but as I read through the parashah something else “hit” me, so I will talk about that, but first, it is really interesting to see how God judged the false gods through the plagues.
Some of you may already know this, but I will present it quickly for those that aren’t familiar with the many gods the Egyptians have worshipped.
|Ra / Atum||Sun||Darkness|
|Apis||Cattle / Nile||Nile turns to blood|
|Isis||protection from disease||boils|
|Anubis||Underworld / death||death of the first born|
|Pharaoh||Divinely empowered to protect and maintain order||All the plagues|
As you can see, these gods of the Egyptian polytheistic religion were, in one way or another, shown to be less powerful than the God of the Israelites.
That is interesting and of value for study, but there was something, as I mentioned earlier, that I find to be a spiritual message in what God told the Israelites to do, specifically regarding the feast of unleavened bread (Hag HaMatzot.)
As most of us know, chametz (leavening) represents sin and the feast of unleavened bread begins on the night of the Seder, lasting seven days. Seven, the number of completion, is also a special number with regards to the cleansing rituals which are described in Leviticus. When becoming unclean due to a discharge or after a woman’s’ time of Nidah (menstrual cycle) or after a skin disease clears up, the waiting period from the time of becoming unclean until being declared clean, after being inspected by the Cohen, is seven days.
I believe that God decreed Hag HaMatzot is to last seven days because it is representative of them being cleansed of the sin of Egypt that was on them all, for many of them had adopted the Egyptian lifestyle, diet, and even their religion. Now, this shouldn’t be a big surprise because they had been slaves for 400 years, but still and all, now they were being brought back into a relationship with the God of their Fathers, and he didn’t want any of the spiritual stench of slavery on them. By removing the chametz from their diet, they were undergoing both a physical and spiritual cleansing of the sin they had become accustomed to while in Egypt.
The Passover sacrifice is a thanksgiving sacrifice, not a sin sacrifice, and the purpose of this type of sacrifice is to bring us back into a relationship with God. The fasting of anything with chametz cleanses us, spiritually as well as physically, so that our communion can be complete.
Passover is coming around, again, and when you have your Seder and spend the next week eating matzabrie, matzo sandwiches, and other matzo recipes (my favorite is matzo with butter and salt), remember that you are not just obeying God, but you are cleansing yourself of both physical and spiritual chametz.
One last thought: generally, before the Seder, the Rabbi will inspect the home to ensure that all the chametz is removed, which reminds me of the Cohen’s inspection before someone was allowed back into the camp.
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Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!