Saturday, August 4, 2012

Passover and Sacrifice

Passover and Sacrifice

Passover (פסח) and Sacrifice (קרבן)

By Menashe Walsh
Picture the communal scene, a ‘Rabbi’ wrapped in Tallit[1] sat at a table demonstrates the story of the Passover using the traditional rabbinic visual aids of the Seder Plate, Wine and Matzos. Everybody sat at table with their Haggadas[2] following along listening to the story of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, reciting the traditional blessings, singing the traditional songs and eating foods which symbolically represent both slavery and freedom. The communal scene is not all it seems, however, the ‘Rabbi’ has upgraded this Seder to incorporate new ideas which give the participants even greater spiritual lessons! With a wink in his eye and a knowing nod of his head, the ‘Rabbi’ lets the participants of the Seder into a little secret. The little secret being just one of the many little secrets to be told this evening! Holding the machine baked Matzos for all to see, the ‘Rabbi’ tells how most Jews unwittingly fail to see the major significance of the pierced holes and stripes of the Matzos. How there are a trinity of three Matzos used in theSeder and why the middle MatzoJesus is broken and hidden only to be resurrected found later. The irony for most Jews not ‘in the know’… there is no lamb Jesus, no sacrifice crucifixion, only a burnt egg and a shank bone on the Seder plate! The ‘Rabbi’ knows the punch line which he is more than happy to tell. There is a lamb sacrifice for everyone’s personal liberation from Egypt sin, its Yeshua (Jesus). Who would have known that all of this is tied up to a historical event 3500 years ago and traditional rabbinic visual aids of the Seder Plate, wine and now modern day machine baked Matzos providing the stripes!
The Seder continues, the participants happy in the ‘new’ knowledge that a superior atonement has been secured for all, forever, by the body and blood of THE LAMB JESUS! To emphasize the superior atonement has been secured for all, a communion service is added to the Seder, like the communion service that Jesus the Jew did on the Passover just before he initiated the ‘new’ covenant by dying on a cross. It just makes so much sense does it not? It fits like a glove! Dead to the old and now alive in a new covenant!


The problem with messianic ‘Jews’ and Christians trying to morph the historical biblical event of Passover into Jesus and the New Testament is something which is not readily apparent to the casual observer with only a cursory knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures. Additionally, other agendas such as Messianics putting on a Passover Seder to target disaffected or disenfranchised Jews, for the purpose of converting Jews to Jesus, tends to monopolize on the emotional vulnerability of such Jews. Emotional vulnerability along with a morphing of two separate distinct theologies may border on the downright deceptive and in some cases has proven to be a potent combination in conversion of Jews to Jesus but not on a sound biblical basis however!
So what is the point and where is the harm? The point is that nowhere in the Jewish Scriptures is it ever intimated or suggested that the Passover sacrifice is a sacrifice for atonement. Indeed sacrifices of any kind from the time of Cain and Abel to the birth of the nation of Israel emerge in the Torah as man-initiated events, without any reference to sin! One possible exception to man-initiated events is the near sacrifice of Isaac commanded by G-d. Despite heated debate within Judaism about the meaning of the binding of Isaac, Abraham on his own initiative, subsequent to G-d telling Abraham not to sacrifice Isaac, sacrifices a ram (Gen 22:13), even though Abraham tells Isaac that G-d will provide a lamb (Gen 22:8). Either way, both possibilities of lamb and/ or ram are not commanded by G-d! Moreover, in the binding of Isaac there is no mention that the purpose of sacrifice is for atonement of sin either! Additionally, the binding of Isaac, a typology used by Messianics and Christians, attempts to create a correlation between the “Binding of Isaac” (Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac) and God’s sacrifice of Jesus. Unfortunately the correlation breaks down practically before it ever begins. The typology says that God sacrificed His own son just as Abraham would have sacrificed his own son, had God allowed the act to be completed. However, Abraham was sacrificing his son to God, which showed Abraham loved God more than he loved his son Isaac, something that even God acknowledges in the text:
“He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” (Gen 22:2)
So who did God sacrifice Jesus to? Did God sacrifice Jesus to mankind in order to show mankind that He loved mankind more than he loved Jesus? Is mankind God’s god? God needs mankind’s approval in order to be God? Does this make sense? Of course it does not make sense. Indeed, sacrifices as man-initiated events are confirmed in the book of Jeremiah 7:
22 For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. 23 But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.’
So troubling is the above to Christian theology, that the New International Version (NIV) of Jer 7:22, 23, adds an extra word to the translation which the Hebrew does not support:
22 For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices,23 but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you.
The extra word ‘just’, parachuted into the NIV translation of verse 22 gives the reverse idea that G-d did command the Israelites to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings for sins in stark contrast to the man initiated sacrifices found in the Torah (prior to Sinai) without reference to sin! Moreover, the ‘but’ of verse 23 renders verse 22 in the NIV illogical!
With respect to Passover, Christianity has made the substitutionary death of Jesus ‘the Passover lamb’, to be the sole basis for an entirely new religion! And here is the harm of such a distortion of the biblical narrative. The ‘Passover lamb’of Christianity is atonement for sin and has its worshipers passively worshiping the lamb itself because the lamb does the work for them, takes the punishment for them and pays the price of ALL sin for them![3] Indeed according to Christian theology it is impossible for anybody to actually make themself acceptable to G-d by their actions[4].
In contradistinction, the actions and thoughts behind the actions of the Israelites with respect to (but not only) slaying of the Passover lamb[5], where saving actions and thoughts by virtue of the Israelites choosing the G-d of Israel over the lamb god[5b] of the Egyptians! The Passover Lamb was a sacrifice to show ones’ allegiance to the G-d of Israel! Obedience to the word of G-d is more valuable to G-d than sacrifice[6]. And where one does need to bring a sacrifice for sin as commanded in the Torah, a primary prerequisite is teshuvaor in the not so accurate English term repentance. Judaism considers the prerequisite teshuva or repentance to achieve atonement and not the idea of a penal human substitutionary atonement which the Jewish scriptures teach against[8]. Without teshuva any sacrifice for sin is worthless otherwise! With the prerequisites of teshuva in place and obedience to the word of G-d being preferable than sacrifice, the sacrificial sacrifice[7] aspect of Torah is placed in its proper context.  Without the sacrificial sacrifice aspect of Torah in its proper context, Christianity makes sacrifice for atonement alone the sole basis of its religion without any reference to a personal effort to get closer to G-d. However, with Passover we are talking about something altogether different. Passover is a sacrifice of allegiance not a sacrifice of atonement.

[1] A Jewish Prayer Shawl.
[2] A booklet showing an order of service to follow for the Passover meal.
[3] 20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die; the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father with him, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son with him; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. 21 But if the wicked turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all My statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. (Ezekiel 20)
[4] ibid
[5] The lamb in the context of the Passover story was a god (amongst many) for the Egyptians. Indeed some of the ten plagues were with respect to the other idols of the Egyptians (frogs, river Nile, wild animals for example). Tellingly, the lamb, a sign of fertility, was killed in the middle of the month of Nisan (Aries in the zodiac and spring time too) and the blood of the lamb placed on the door lintels of the Israelites’ dwellings. The spiritual force of this Egyptian lamb god, in the middle of the month of Nisan (Aries in the zodiac) was supposed to be at its most potent then! The Israelites brazenly chose to go out of Egypt, painting their lintels and eating their lamb sacrifice, something never done before with respect to sacrifices of animals!
The significance of the 10th of Nisan is mentioned in the Torah:
Speak to all the congregation ofIsrael, saying, “In the tenth day of this month they shall take every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for a house.” (Exodus 12:3) Tosfot [1] point out that by taking the lamb, the Jews piqued the interest, and the ire, of the firstborn ofEgypt. They pleaded with Pharaoh to release the Jews. When he refused, the firstborn rebelled and attacked their own parents [2]. Therefore the day is considered great, due to the miracle of God which was manifest and the subsequent unraveling of Egyptian society. Furthermore, by slaughtering the object of Egyptians worship, the Jews liberated themselves from the chains of spiritual slavery. When the Holy One, blessed be He, told Moses to slay the paschal lamb, Moses answered: “Lord of the Universe! How can I possibly do this thing? Do You not know that the lamb is the Egyptian god? As it says: If we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, will they not stone us?” (Exodus 8:22) God replied: “As you live,Israelwill not depart from here before they slaughter the Egyptian gods before their very eyes, that I may teach them that their gods are really nothing at all.’” This is what He [God] actually did, for on that night He slew the Egyptian firstborn and on that night the Israelites slaughtered their paschal lamb and ate it. When the Egyptians beheld their firstborn slain and their gods slaughtered, they could do nothing, as it says: While the Egyptians were burying them that the Lord had smitten among them, even all their firstborn; upon their gods also the Lord executed judgment. (Midrash Rabbah – Exodus 16:3) God then said to Moses: “As long asIsraelworship Egyptian gods, they will not be redeemed; go and tell them to abandon their evil ways and to reject idolatry.” This is what is meant by: Draw out and take you lambs. That is to say: Draw away your hands from idolatry and take for yourselves lambs, thereby slaying the gods of Egypt and preparing the Passover; only through this will the Lord pass over you. This is the meaning of In sitting still and rest shall you be saved. (Midrash Rabbah – Exodus 16:2). The taking of the lambs was significant on another level as well. The Jews were now occupied with performance of a Divine decree; aside from the rejection of the Egyptian gods they were now actively fulfilling God’s command.
[6] See 1 Sam 15:22 , Jer 7:23 above and Amos 5;25.
[7] / Korban (קרבן) in Hebrew has its root in the concept of ‘to draw near’ to an unfathomable G-d.
[8] (Ezekiel 20:20, 21), 31 Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God; for every abomination to the LORD, which He hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters do they burn in the fire to their gods. Deut 12

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