A Rabbinical Perspective on the Passover Lamb

The Torah portion this week is Parashat Bo, Exodus 10:1 – 13:16. It is the last chapters telling the Exodus of the children of Israel from over 200 years of slavery in Egypt. The portion from the prophets that will be read on Shabbat is Jeremiah 46:13 – 46:28. From the New Testament the reading is Luke 22:7-30.

The text from Exodus 10:1, is very strange:

“Now the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go in to Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his servants, that I may show these signs of Mine before him, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and your son’s son the mighty things I have done in Egypt, and My signs which I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.’” – Exodus 10:1 [NKJV]

Literally in the Hebrew He says to Moses, “Go into Pharaoh!” What does it mean, “Go into Pharaoh?”

God is saying to Moses, both as instruction and direction that he must not be satisfied with just coming and talking to Pharaoh. To Moses, God says that you have to break through to Pharaoh’s heart, because I have strengthened his heart. For I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants.

It was a test to see if they will understand the signs and the plagues that I have sent to them to wake them up and understand that Israel is My people, that it was I that sent them to Egypt, that I sent the plagues of blood, frogs, and all the other plagues that Pharaoh and his nation experienced, so that they would know and understand that it is time to release My people Israel and send them back to the land that I gave to their fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, as an inheritance.

Actually, God is telling Moses that he must go into Pharaoh’s heart and speak to him in a way that Pharaoh could understand.

I learn from this text that The Lord understands men’s hearts, and understands that, without the impact of the plagues, Pharaoh and the people will not understand.

The brain is not enough for people to understand God and His plan and program. The message from God has to be transmitted to Pharaoh through both his brain and his heart.

We too can only understand the Lord when our brain and our heart are working together and receiving from God, through the Word first, and then through our experience and heart, from within, through our hearts, just as Pharaoh’s heart has to receive the challenges of love, hope, and faith!

In my opinion that is why the Lord speaks to Moses differently than all the previous times, saying – “Go inside of Pharaoh I have hardened his heart!” That is to say, now you go inside of Pharaoh and communicate my heart!

The story of the Passover is also a part of this Shabbat’s reading! There are many secrets in this week’s reading. I want to start with one that which is truly close to my heart.

We often forget that the drama of the Passover, and the theatrical aspects of the Passover show, are not issues of magic, or of witchcraft. The drama of the eating of the lamb in each household, while we are all dressed up and with a staff (wooden stick) in our hand, our shoes on, and while standing – what is this show about?

Here is the revelation of this secret:

“And it shall be, when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ that you shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice of the Lord, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.’” – Exodus 12:26,27 [NKJV]

We see again the importance that the Lord places on our children. This text gives us the same priority that God presents in the Shema, which is considered the most important and the holiest text in the Bible that begins with this greatest of God’s commands:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” – Deuteronomy 6:4-9 [NKJV]

(Note: After the great declaration, “The Lord our God is One!” The Lord focuses our attention – our minds and our hearts – on our children, on our homes, houses, and on our daily schedules. There is not some great theological reference to the nature of God, to the angels, or to the Messiah.)

Today, we don’t really have a real biblical Passover celebration. What we have is a dinner and a retelling of the Passover exodus. There are symbolic representations of what was.

However, even today the children play an important role. From the beginning to the end, from the opening with “Ma Nishtana” (the four questions) to the end with the finding of the afikoman (hidden piece of matzah) by the children.

We must refocus our ministry and restore the focus that God’s word prescribed a long time ago. The greatest treasure that God gave us is our future generations. The treasure He entrusted to us is our next generations. Not our theological beliefs. We must remember that one of the qualifications for being an elder or a pastor is that he has faithful children.

The upshot of this qualification is that if a “pastor’s” children are not faithful, i.e. disciples of Yeshua, that pastor is disqualified and must look for another job:

“…if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination.” – Titus 1:6 [NKJV]

The parasha also has another secret! This has to do with the Hebrew grammar of Exodus 12:5,6:

“Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight.” – Exodus 12:5,6 [NKJV]

Please look at verse 6: “Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight.” Grammatically it should be written “shall kill them.” It is not possible for the whole congregation of Israel to kill one (“kill it”).

Why do you think that John the Baptist calls Yeshua and says, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes the sins of the world!” Yeshua is called the Lamb of God, related to the Passover.

This is Rashi’s commentary on this verse:

“And they shall slaughter it etc. — But did they all slaughter it (one alone did this on behalf of the company formed to eat that particular lamb; cf. Chullin 29b)? But we derive from this statement the legal principle that a man’s agent is as himself (this is derived from the fact that although one alone slaughtered the lamb on behalf of many, Scripture still states: they shall slaughter it) (Mekhilta d’Rabbi Yishmael 12:6:2; Kiddushin 41b.) it speaks here of assembly, congregation, Israel, whilst one of these terms alone would have sufficed; hence they (the rabbis) said: the paschal-lambs of the congregation (a term used in contrast to that which was sacrificed by an individual on the 14th of the second month; cf. Numbers 9:9-14) are to be slaughtered in three groups, one after the other — the first group entered and the doors of the court were closed, etc. as is to be found in the Talmud, Treatise Pesachim (64a).”

This commentary of Rashi above is just one of many rabbinical commentaries that understand this text is special and that it has a secret. It is a hint for what would happen over a thousand years later, and on the same day in the same afternoon of the 14th day of Nissan, the Lamb of God, Yeshua, is condemned to death by the authorities of Israel collectively. Some of the rabbis understood that this unusual text has a secret that involves all of Israel.

This article originally appeared on Netivyah and reposted with permission.