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A little about Pessah



As most people in the Western part of the world probably have figured out, these days are of special importance for the Christians. For those living in or near to Jewish neighborhoods it is probably obvious that not only the Christians, but also Jews, are celebrating something they consider of certain importance. But is it the same? And if not, why on the same time then? And what exactly are they celebrating?

Well, as I stated in my post from Friday I’m celebrating Pessah. And I also said that I might write a little about this, so that’s what I’m going to do. But first things first, since I am a student of Comparative Religion, I will take the obvious opportunity to do a little comparison of the Christian and Jewish holidays being celebrated right now.

The first and most obvious question is, is it the same? No, actually not. But then again, they are connected, having the Christian Passover being based on the Jewish, but still being particular Christian. What the Jews are celebrating is the redemption of the Israelite People from the slavery of Egypt, while the Christians are celebrating the redemption of whoever believes in Jesus from the slavery of sin. When the Jews had to leave Egypt, they had to slaughter and unblemished lamb and put the blood on the doorposts of their houses, so the angel of death would pass over their houses (hence the English name for Pessah, Passover), while the Christians teach that God had to slaughter (or sacrifice, that doesn’t sound as bad as slaughter) the unblemished ‘lamb,’ and the only ‘lamb’ that fulfilled that role was Jesus, being born by a virgin (and thus not being blemished by the inherited sin of man), as well as being the son of God, acting totally according to the will of his heavenly father. His blood then would redeem the believer from the chains of sin, allowing them to join him in Paradise, whenever that time may come. Now, I’m not going to deal with who is right or wrong, me being a Jew should be enough of an explanation of what I believe to be right, and if you feel the need to know why, then you’re free to contact me, but that really isn’t the focus of this post.

Anyway, so as is obvious we do have some elements from Judaism going again in Christianity, which isn’t without reason, having the Christian teachings stating that everything that happened in the “Old Testament” being a forewarning of what would be fulfilled by Jesus.

As we see, the Jews have the redemption of the Egyptian slavery, the Christians of the slavery of sin. The Jews have the sacrifice of the unblemished lamb, the Christians of the unblemished ‘divine lamb,’ being Jesus. The Jews have the blood from the lamb on the doorposts, in order for the angel of death to pass their houses, the Christians have the blood of Jesus, in order to escape the eternal death, that they may live with Jesus in Paradise.

There are other interesting factors, which we could deal with in this comparison, but I won’t make an extensive study here, that would probably be too boring for most. One thing that I will note, only in order to relate to a possible future post on that matter, is the questionable status of their fathers, both of them being raised by a man not their true father. For Moshe Rabenu, A”S, it is Pharaoh, for Jesus it is Yosef. Both of them, at least according to their traditions, has some royalty connected to them, Moshe Rabenu, A”S, via Pharaoh, while Jesus holds it via God (and here we have an interesting example of a ‘cross-comparison,’ being similar in the one part and differ in the second, but still have all the element reflecting each other). The reason why I won’t go into detail about this, besides what I already have written, is that I see this element being represented in case of most religious founders. See for example Muhammad, whose father died even before he was born, and thus grew up without a father. It is an interesting issue, but it’s not that related to my focus here.


Anyway, let’s get back on track. So far we have found out that Christians celebrate Jesus (well, his death) and their redemption from sin, while the Jews are celebrating that Pharaoh got rid of us. Eh, that we got rid of Pharaoh, and now could stop being his slaves, and instead worship God freely. That’s basically what Pessah is about. Of course, just to state that would be boring, so fortunately we have a story to tell of how Moshe Rabenu, A”S, was sent to Pharaoh, by God, to redeem his (and His) people from slavery. How Moshe Rabenu, A”S, struggled with Pharaoh, helped by Aharon, A”S, his brother – and God most importantly – having to send ten plagues in order to make Pharaoh give in, and then lead the Jews out of Egypt. All this is more or less the introduction, the exact Biblical base for the celebration of Pessah is found in Shmot (Exodus) chapters 12 and 13, having God telling Moshe Rabenu and Aharon, A”S, to command the Israelites about Pessah, stating that “This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you…”[1] This is both the introduction to the last of the ten plagues, the death of the firstborns, as well as being the de facto creation of the Jewish People as a People belonging to God. This verse, the second verse in the twelfth chapter, holds such a big significance for the self-understanding of the Jewish People, that later commentaries stated that the Torah basically could have begun here.[2] This is not without reason, basically taking the Israelite People out of an existence as slaves, being submitted to the rulers of the world (here exemplified through Pharaoh), and becoming a people ruled by God. This is the de facto transfer from being one of the people of the world, to becoming the people under God. Sure, in the future the Jewish People surely would be ruled and tyrannized by other people, the Seleucids, the Romans, the Christians, Muslims and so on, but from this point and onwards the true ruler of the Jews would be God, following His Laws, even when it demanded their lives. This is the Jewish understanding, as expressed by the tradition.

So that’s Pessah, at least the basic understanding of Pessah. Much more can be said about it, both an analysis of the Biblical account, how it is celebrated, the rules connected to Pessah, and so on. That’s for the coming posts, for now I just wanted to give a basic understanding of what we Jews are celebrating these days.

So, Pessah Kasher w’Sameah. And happy Easter to the Christians

[1] Shmot 12:1 and onwards.

[2] See for example Rabbi Yitzhaq, being quoted both by Rashi and RaMBaN (Nahmanides) on Bereshit (Genesis) 1:1.

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