Tag Archive | Passover

Change of Seasons

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After muddling through for just over a year with most of our books still in storage and without any significant social contact, Motor-biker decided at the beginning of April to try school.

It took a while for the bureaucratic wheels to turn, but once the ball was rolling everything seemed to happen very fast.

We had a tour of the school on the Thursday and then filled in the forms to officially apply for a place. On the Monday we were informed by the County Council that the place was ours and so he started on Wednesday morning.

We agreed that, given that the transition from home to secondary school is such a massive one, it could be overwhelming to jump in at the deep end and so he would start gradually. One lesson the first day, two on the second and so on.

Tomorrow is due to be his first full day.

So far it has been a mixture of enjoyment, overwhelmed exhaustion and frustration. (I will elaborate on the reasons for his frustrations later.)

For those of us left at home, there is also a mixture of feelings of joy and sadness – joy because I am happy for him to do what he wants to do (and he is such a sociable character, I think he will be in his element), sadness because my home education journey is coming to an end before I expected it to and with that I am experiencing feelings of disappointment and a niggling sense of failure.

It is nonsense of course – motherhood inevitably includes a sense of guilt but I know that actually I have done my best and we have had an incredibly difficult set of circumstances that have been and continue to be outside of my control.

Baba Zonee has decided to stay at home. He is a different character from his brother and doesn’t feel ready for school.

Pony-rider has turned 16 and is still at home mainly because she can’t decide what she wants, and Dragon-tamer is still at home struggling with mental and physical ill health after his breakdown which school caused.

I’m not worried that Motor-biker will have the same experience at school that Dragon-tamer did – again, they are very different characters.

Whereas Dragon-tamer found the education useful and the social contact difficult and frustrating, Motor-biker is likely to have the opposite experience, and I am prepared (and fully expecting judging from his reactions to the lessons so far) to need to supplement the education at home.

So perhaps not much will change in a way except for the timetable, and Baba Zonee will benefit I’m sure from having one-to-one attention for a change (not to mention a bit of peace and quiet! Motor-biker’s other nickname is Tigger due to his irrepressibly boisterous and bouncy nature!)

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I couldn’t help noticing that this massive change of season for us occurred on the occasion of the Full Moon at Passover and Orthodox Easter (also counted as Beltane for those who celebrate on the full moon rather than on May 1st according to the calendar). That confluence of Christian, Jewish and Pagan dates felt auspicious to me in a way. Perhaps it’s just me being fanciful, but perhaps that’s just me! 🙂

I feel a little as though I, like Dorothy, have been caught up in a whirling, mad tornado (again) and deposited in a new land – charmed and bewitched, and I’m a little bit lost and unsure. Unfamiliar territory with unfamiliar landmarks. I will triumph eventually, but we may have a strange journey ahead.

I am thinking happy thoughts and taking deep breaths, and trying to adjust to the idea without going crazy.

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Parsha: Bo

I have been wanting to start posting notes on the weekly Torah portions (‘parsha’) for ages, and I have been planning to alternate between the Torah portions and the Anglican weekly lectionary readings for Sundays.

I would have liked to start in the Autumn with the beginning of the new Jewish year* and/ or in November at the beginning of the new Church year, but moving house and getting ill got in the way.

I can’t promise to be consistent, but I am at least at home, pretty laid-up and so with plenty of time on my hands for writing.

So instead of waiting for the next appropriate starting point, I thought I would just jump right in and look at the next portion, which is Bo! (Go!) in Exodus.


Torah: Exodus 10:1-13:16
Haftarah: Jeremiah 46:13-26
Brit Chadashah: Luke 22:7-30
1 Corinthians 11:24-34


For those not familiar with the Jewish ‘lectionary’ as it were, the weekly Torah portion is a set passage from the Pentateuch, the Haftarah is a passage from the prophets which in some way recalled the Torah passage to memory, when in times past Jews were forbidden from reading the actual Torah portion itself.

Brit Chadashah means ‘New Covenant’, or what is commonly referred to as the New Testament. Obviously this last selection does not come from Jewish tradition, but is selected to match the Torah and Haftarah portions according to topic. There is no agreed-upon selection from the Brit Chadashah across the board. Individual congregations may select their own passages, or they may use the suggested passages in The Complete Jewish Bible. I am using the selections from the Hebrew for Christians website.


Bo! is the penultimate installment of the Exodus story as the battle with Pharaoh comes to a dramatic end with the last three plagues: Locusts, Darkness, and the Killing of the Firstborn.

Pharaoh is still stubbornly refusing to let the Israelite slaves leave Egypt to go and worship their God in the desert, despite his officials telling him

“Do you not yet realise that Egypt is ruined?”

But, cryptically, we are told that God himself has ‘hardened Pharaoh’s heart’, “that you may know that I am the LORD.” From our modern perspective, this seems wrong, even cruel.  If the story is to be taken literally, it is surely hard to understand. But is it perhaps rather that God allowed him to be hardhearted? Allowed him to be his worst?

After the plague of Darkness, Pharaoh loses his temper with Moses – as though it is Moses stubbornly keeping on asking, as though the plagues were meant to change his mind instead. Pharaoh just doesn’t seem to get it. His stubbornness is greater than his fear of the LORD, even after the awesome plagues.

Then, before the last plague, God tells Moses that this incidence in the month of Nisan is to be marked in the calendar as the beginning of the new year* for the Israelites…

“Because the LORD kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honour the LORD for the generations to come.” Exodus 12:42

…and instructions are given for the Israelites to avoid being struck by the Angel of Death when he ‘passes over’ to kill the firstborn of every household: the slaying of the Lamb, the painting of blood on the doorposts. It’s important to notice that the Lamb is not just selected and killed, it is brought into the house to live with them for four days before being killed. Can you imagine?! Can you see the children loving those little lambs, cuddling up to them, and being heartbroken with they are killed for them to eat?

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven – Jesus in Matthew 18:3

Midnight comes, and the Angel of the LORD strikes down the firstborn of every household not protected, including Pharaoh’s, at which time he tells Moses to Go! Get out of Egypt! So the Israelites leave, but the Egyptians hand over their silver, their gold, their clothing to them as they go! “And thus they plundered the Egyptians.” What are we to make of this? Is it a kind of re-payment for the 400 years of slavery?

The Parsha ends with instructions on the consecration and ‘redemption’ of firstborn males (both of livestock and of their own sons).

“It will be like a sign on your hand a symbol on your forehead that the LORD brought us out of Egypt with his might hand.”

The Haftarah passage is a message from God to the prophet Jeremiah about His judgement on Egypt, and specifically the god Amon of Thebes, through the attack of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon. Interestingly, each of the ten plagues of Egypt were linked with one specific god of the Egyptians, apparently designed so that everybody would see that the LORD ‘Jehovah’ is supreme over them all. See chart here (opens a pdf file)

Both new testament passages relate to the Last Supper and Jesus’ inauguration  of the eucharist; or, as Messianic Jews understand it, Yeshua’s addition of a fifth cup to the Passover seder. (See a really helpful analysis of the mystery of the fifth cup here.)


It is said that there are 70 aspects to the Torah, like a priceless cut diamond – every time you look at it, you see another facet. Beyond the literal interpretation which is often fraught with difficulty and disturbing scenes our modern sense cannot cope with, there is a rich treasure trove of symbolism that is easily missed if we don’t have our minds open to search for them, and of course I am barely scratching the surface here.


* On the topic of Jewish New Years, the new year at Passover as instructed her is not observed with any notable traditions that I am aware of, although it is called the ‘religious new year’ by some, the traditional new year is in the Autumn at ‘Rosh haShanah’, which is more properly the Feast of Trumpets. For a discussion of how Jewish New Year came to be observed in the Autumn, see here.


Happy New Year to you!

 

Pesach Cleaning

I learn something new every Pesach – about myself, about housework, about the nature of sin and cleanliness, and this year has been no different.

I am sure I have mentioned before that I felt that one of the lessons of Passover is that, no matter how hard we try, we can’t get rid of all the dirt (sin, for which yeast, leaven, chametz is a metaphor) on our own, because it is never finished, the dirt just keeps on coming.

This year, we are in the middle of moving house, so clearing and cleaning two houses. The new house is exactly that – a brand new build where nobody has lived before. I thought that this side of things would be easy, but I have been amazed at how quickly the dust and dirt has mounted up. We may not have much in the way of actual chametz here, but we certainly have dust and dirt!

At the old house, the revelations have been even more startling. Moving things that never usually get moved, like the cooker, has made me realise how the dirt collects in places we’re not looking, not paying attention to, and how once a year ‘spring cleaning’ may not be enough – much more thorough, regular cleaning is going to have to be a feature of life at our new place.

And the spiritual application, of course, is that we need to be making regular self-evaluations, regular repentance, and regular washing (by the Water of the Word).

I am reminded of the classic story of the rabbi who told his students, “Make Teshuvah (repent) one day before you die.” His students would respond with the question, “But how do you know when it is one day before you will die?” The answer of course is that you don’t know, so you must make Teshuvah every day!

Cleaning Deadlines

We have a property inspection tomorrow morning. It’s one of the many down sides to renting. But as much as I’m dreading it, there is nothing like an externally imposed deadline for motivating you to get things done.

So although there is still work to do today, the house is looking tidier and cleaner and more organised than it has done since we moved in.

What I’ve realised about housework (and here comes the metaphor) is that, like sin, and the leaven that represents sin at Passover, it’s a relentless battle.

You can’t rest back and assume it’s conquered. Maybe there is a sense in which it is conquered once and for all in the heavenlies (and I think that my own personal heaven will be a self-cleaning & self-tidying house!), but in the gritty, earthly here and now, you have to wash daily, battle it constantly and never give up.

Shabbat and Passover & the Feast of Unleavened Bread represent little windows into a heavenly future time when we’ve come into the fulness of the Kingdom.

May your Kingdom come, Yeshua!

Preparing for Passover

Cleaning is not really my forte. As much as I’d like to be domesticated, it doesn’t come naturally at all.

I’m also slightly drowning in stuff and boxes after moving house, and wondering whether I will ever get on top of it.

But thankfully, Passover is about more than cleaning. I can’t help feeling that preparing spiritually is just as important as, if not more important than the practical side of preparing by removing the physical chametz.

If there’s one thing I have learnt over the years of being Messianic, it is that I cannot remove the chametz – the leaven, representing sin – myself. That is the real point of Passover though from a New Covenant perspective – Yeshua came to take the leaven away because our efforts always fail to bridge the gap. I’m mixing metaphors in there, I know – the metaphors aren’t perfect, they’re just supposed to be pictures to help us understand the spiritual realities.

How do you get ready for passover?

Preparing for Passover

Ten Steps to Preparing for Pesach

Preparing Spiritually for Passover