So this week’s portion is Bo and in it we learn about the Passover, but not just the order to kill the first born sons, but how to celebrate in the future. I was given a beautiful Passover Haggadah as a gift. It was given as a gift to someone on their bar mitzvah in 1966 or the Hebrew year 5726, If you open this gorgeous book like a book written in English you will see the entire service, narrative and liturgy. But if you open the book as if written in Hebrew you will see the amazing fully illuminated pages. This is very precious to me as it was obviously given with love. There is a handwritten inscription from Rabbi and Rebbitzin Spar.
The Passover is so important and for those of us from Christian backgrounds it is a wonderful way for us to identify with the blood on the door and God’s judgment passing over us. But let’s dig a little deeper. If you look at Exodus chapter 12 verse 13 that is where it talks about the sign of the blood. Remember? A lamb was to be slaughtered and gathered in a bowl, hyssop to be dipped in the blood and put on the door frame, the lintel. There are two things it says about this in Chapter 12, the first is that the blood will be a sign for you and then it says when “I see the blood I will pass over you.”
The Hebrew word that is used for passing over can mean to have mercy on, to be kind to, to take pity. However you translate it, God is holding back judgment. When it says “the blood will be a sign for you” the commentators are very clear that first of all God does not have senses in the way that we do, He’s not limited in that way and does not need to “see” the blood. He knows that one house is full of Jews that obeyed the commandments and another is full of other Egyptians that did not.
The sages tell us that the blood was actually put on the inside of the door posts, the lintel, and that is why the verse is literal when it says it will be a sign for you. You are on the inside of the house in the safety of obedience to the commandments. The sages point out that it would not protect an Israelite in an Egyptian home if no blood was applied, but the reverse is also true, it would not protect an Egyptian in a home where the blood was applied. The application of the blood did not mark that a house was safe or unsafe. An Egyptian in a Jewish home with blood applied, if he was the firstborn son he was going to die.
There was a two part process, you to display the blood and you had to belong to God. Placing the blood was not a get out of plague free card. It is not just the blood, it is obedience to the commandments. The sages are very clear, it is not magic. If God asked you to do anything, it is the obedience that showed you were a part of God’s people, you were in the group that obeyed.
So it is important to understand that if you wear, as I do, a Mogen David – a star or shield of David or a cross, it isn’t a talisman or good luck charm. It doesn’t mean you are okay with the almighty. To be okay with the almighty you must belong to him. Placing the blood was obedience to the command that God had given. So when it says “a sign for you” means that during the night people could be assured that they had obeyed and were safe.
The same is true for us today. We can’t just do the right things, we also need to belong to God, to the be right kinds of people. We can’t just be people that are doing certain things to get out of judgment. As we learn about the Passover – as we get closer to it – I will be giving you some teaching about how you and I can live this out in our daily lives. For as it says, we are supposing to be saying these things to our children, generation to generation. In a few months as we celebrate the Passover it is tradition that you should act as if you yourself had come out in the exodus; not just a group of long ago people but as if you yourself was freed.
Next week we will be doing something special on the 15th of Shevat, Tu B’shevat the new year of the trees. I will be on location in Texas with Rabbi Shapira to do a special seder for Tu B’shevat. There will be more info on the Facebook page and on this page about how you can join us for this special celebration.
If you want to study with me, please fill out an application on this page, all seven courses are bundled for $500 and for $600 you can study with your spouse! If you are African or African American, we are building a bridge between these two communities please join the Uri program at af.shuvu.tv.
Let’s be thankful this week that because of the blood of the lamb God’s judgment is going to pass over us.
Shalom and Kol Tuv.