Passover: The Essence of Judaism —iWc

 

Passover starts tomorrow night. Torah-observant Ricocheteers have been building up to this moment for months now – cleaning, and preparing and learning and planning… whew! The iWc home has an average of 15 people for 8 separate formal meals (we are eating out for 2 of them) over the course of 8 days.

I wanted to share a thought that will be new to all readers. Here goes!

When we are alerting the Angel of Death that ours is a Jewish home (the origin of the phrase “Pass over”, Moses instructs the Jewish people to perform a very specific act:

…kill the Passover lamb. And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the basin; and none of you shall go out from the door of his house until the morning. For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when he sees the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not let the destroyer come into your houses to strike you.

What does this commandment have to do with anything? How are the combination of hyssop, blood, and doorposts the symbol of the Jewish people for the Angel of Death?

The answer is that this particular commandment embodies our very essence! The overarching mission of the Jewish people is to take elements from the physical world, those things made by G-d, and to elevate them to the spiritual plane. So in taking hyssop (which is a low grass), and dipping it in blood which is then smeared on the doorpost, the Jews were literally combining a living item from the plant world, and one from the animal kingdom, and then moving them up, to the doorpost and lintel. We elevated G-d’s creations to the spiritual plane – the height of the human head, where our soul resides.

The symbolism of the doorpost helps us understand this commandment even further. G-d respects the creations of mankind. G-d seems to show an inherent deference to human ingenuity and creativity, the things that we build. And human creation is not meant to stand alone: as this commandments tells us, we are supposed to elevate G-d’s creations by combining them with our own. We are meant to use technology as the vehicle for the elevated physical materials.

And of course a doorpost also represents the home, the relationship between husband and wife that mirrors our personal and national relationship with G-d. When we choose to protect our homes by publicly identifying as the people who know their role in this world, then we have identified ourselves as G-d’s people.

The commandment of using the hyssop and blood was only in force that one evening, but it is connected to the commandment of the mezuzah – the scroll containing the words of the sh’ma (“Hear Oh Israel! The Lord our G-d, the Lord is One!”) that are also supposed to go on the doorpost. The scroll of the mezuzah is made of animal parchment, combined with vegetable ink – and then placed on our doorposts.

The door-scroll is an exact parallel of that first doorpost commandment, reminding us and G-d that we understand our purpose on this world, and are reminded of it every time we come and go.

The Torah tells us that Egypt is about harmonizing with nature, celebrating the raw, organic state, the state of existence in which man is merely another animal, and should seek to integrate with the rest of the natural world, disturbing it as little as possible. This is the modern idolatry that surrounds us today, and has seeped into the daily lives of even the most devout Jews.

Judaism is set in contrast to nature: we are to use nature to build, to reach ever higher. Our morality is not defined by the worship of Gaia, but by G-d, who demands not that we appease Him, but that we seek to improve ourselves, even to recognizing that basic allegiance every time we come in and go out. And so every observant Jew has a scroll on his doors, and kisses it every time he leaves or enters.

This is part of the essence of Judaism, and another dimension of Passover.

There are 16 comments.

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  1. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Yes, indeed.

    • #1
  2. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    This post made this WASP a bit homesick for my early days living in NYC. My closest girlfriend is a Conservative Jew and her parents included me in every single holiday feast from Hanukkah to Yom Kippur to Passover. I still don’t care for gefilte fish or matzah ball soup, but I certainly enjoyed the privilege to celebrate with her family. :)

    • #2
  3. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum
    @

    Kay, iWc, and all observing: Have a blessed, fruitful, and joyous Pesach!  Praying for and with you…Shalom!

    • #3
  4. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    Nanda – Thank you! 

    Tomorrow night is all about the kids. As we go through the Seder, they get candies for asking good questions: It amounts to Stump the Daddy. This game rolls all the elements together: creative questioning, formal ritual, intergenerational transmission (we have been having a very similar Seder for over 100 generations!), and experiencing the Exodus all over again, reliving it through words and songs and ritual.

    • #4
  5. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Hag kasher v’sameah!

    In light of recent news events, I’ve been preoccupied with the concept of freedom of conscience. I can’t help seeing it here as well. The application of blood to the doorposts and lintel, in addition to any symbolic meaning, was a bold statement of conscience. The ram was sacred to the ancient Egyptians, so the Israelites’ wholesale slaughter of lambs outside of the Egyptian cult — and public display of their blood — was a form of organized blasphemy against Egypt. It indicated a willingness to follow the true God and obey God’s command, even at the risk of provoking the majority culture by explicitly rejecting its values.

    iWc: The commandment of using the hyssop and blood was only in force that one evening, but it is connected to the commandment of the mezuzah – the scroll containing the words of the sh’ma (“Hear Oh Israel! The Lord our G-d, the Lord is One!”) ….

    …All the more reason why the sh’ma, our declaration of faith in God and God’s unity, is the text on the contemporary mezuzah scroll!

    • #5
  6. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Nanda Panjandrum:

    Kay, iWc, and all observing: Have a blessed, fruitful, and joyous Pesach! Praying for and with you…Shalom!

     Thank you Nanda. The world is on a very delicate balance right now, and it is our belief that one person could save the world, or one person could destroy it as well. We will celebrate life and freedom this coming week.

    And EThompson, I don’t care for gefilte fish either, but love my own Matzo ball soup! Because I make the best chicken broth in the world to use for my soup.

    • #6
  7. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Kay of MT:

    And EThompson, I don’t care for gefilte fish either, but love my own Matzo ball soup! Because I make the best chicken broth in the world to use for my soup.

    Well I do enjoy Ashkenazi charoset. (Ok, I’m trying to show off now.) 

    • #7
  8. user_1938 Member
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    Son of Spengler: The ram was sacred to the ancient Egyptians, so the Israelites’ wholesale slaughter of lambs outside of the Egyptian cult — and public display of their blood — was a form of organized blasphemy against Egypt. It indicated a willingness to follow the true God and obey God’s command, even at the risk of provoking the majority culture by explicitly rejecting its values.

    Wow. That adds a bold element to the story. So only those Jews who were willing to risk their lives would have their lives spared.

    Thanks, both.

    • #8
  9. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    EThompson:

    Kay of MT:

    And EThompson, I don’t care for gefilte fish either, but love my own Matzo ball soup! Because I make the best chicken broth in the world to use for my soup.

    Well I do enjoy Ashkenazi charoset. (Ok, I’m trying to show off now.)

     That’s okay, you learned well. Good yummy stuff.

    • #9
  10. Doctor Bean Thatcher
    Doctor Bean
    @DoctorBean

    Happy Passover to all. To mash two different stories, sic semper pharaohs.

    • #10
  11. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    The Holy One of Israel bless you all.

    • #11
  12. Katelyn Crist Inactive
    Katelyn Crist
    @KatyAnne

    Have a blessed Passover and thank you so much for sharing this. Very interesting and informative.

    • #12
  13. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Son of Spengler:

    Hag kasher v’sameah!

    In light of recent news events, I’ve been preoccupied with the concept of freedom of conscience. I can’t help seeing it here as well. The application of blood to the doorposts and lintel, in addition to any symbolic meaning, was a bold statement of conscience. The ram was sacred to the ancient Egyptians, so the Israelites’ wholesale slaughter of lambs outside of the Egyptian cult — and public display of their blood — was a form of organized blasphemy against Egypt. It indicated a willingness to follow the true God and obey God’s command, even at the risk of provoking the majority culture by explicitly rejecting its values.

    iWc: The commandment of using the hyssop and blood was only in force that one evening, but it is connected to the commandment of the mezuzah – the scroll containing the words of the sh’ma (“Hear Oh Israel! The Lord our G-d, the Lord is One!”) ….

    …All the more reason why the sh’ma, our declaration of faith in God and God’s unity, is the text on the contemporary mezuzah scroll!

    Interesting, SoS… I’ve never heard that before.


    • #13
  14. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Nanda Panjandrum:

    Kay, iWc, and all observing: Have a blessed, fruitful, and joyous Pesach! Praying for and with you…Shalom!

     Amen.

    • #14
  15. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Thank you.  It always helps to be reminded of our history, and where our rituals originated, and how pertinent they still are.  Human nature, and human behavior, never change.  Neither does God’s love for us, and vice versa.
    So for Seder at my sister’s house, we get to bring green salad…for 22 people!  And I love gefilte fish.

    • #15

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