You can bookmark articles to Read Later

Parasha Shabbat Pesach: The First Day of Passover

“On that day tell your son, ‘I do this because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’”  (Exodus 13:8)


Once we were slaves; now we are free: A Jewish father fulfilling the commandment to tell the story of the first Passover to his son.

This Friday night at sunset, the eight-day festival of Pesach (also called “The Time of Our Freedom”) begins.

In Jewish homes and venues around the world, the first Pesach Seder is celebrated and, the following night, the second will be held.  Please celebrate it with us!

The Seder (order) is a 15-part feast where the story of the Exodus from Egypt is recounted.

That recounting is facilitated through the Haggadah (the telling), which is a Jewish book with instructions about how to conduct the Seder.

The Haggadah also contains Psalms, songs of praise, Passover songs, and Hebrew blessings recited before and after the meal.


A Hebrew/English Haggadah opened to the Four Questions (Ma Nishtana, meaning “What has changed”), which are traditionally asked by the youngest person at the table who is able.

The observances of the Passover Seder include a number of symbolic foods and rituals commemorating both the slavery in Egypt and liberation of the Hebrews.

They include the following:

  • Matzah (unleavened bread);
  • Bitter herbs, usually horseradish, representing the bitterness of slavery;
  • Charoset, an apple, nut, and spice mixture representing the mortar the Israelites used in building Egyptian structures;
  • Salt water, representing the tears the Israelites shed due to enslavement;
  • Shank bone of a lamb, representing both the first Passover lamb and the sacrificial lamb during the time of the Temple in Jerusalem;
  • The afikoman, an additional portion of matzah eaten to commemorate the Passover offering; and
  • Four glasses of wine, which symbolizes God’s fourfold promise of deliverance from Egypt (Exodus 6:6-8).

“Therefore, say to the Israelites:  ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out [the cup of sanctification] from under the yoke of the Egyptians.  I will free you from being slaves to them [the cup of judgment], and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment [the cup of redemption].  I will take you as my own people [the cup of praise], and I will be your God.”  (Exodus 6:6–7)

Passover-Western Wall-Torah-Tallit-men

Reading the Torah at the Western (Wailing) Wall on Passover in Jerusalem.

Because it is the first day of Passover, a special reading is inserted into the regular Torah reading cycle.

This special portion of the Torah will be read in synagogues everywhere during the Shabbat Pesach (Saturday Passover) service.  Please read this story of freedom along with us.  You certainly will be blessed as you discover the Jewish roots of your faith!

Shabbat Pesach (Passover)
Exodus 12:21– 51; Numbers 28:16– 25; Joshua 5:2– 15; 6:1, 27; John 1:29–31

“Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, ‘Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb.’”  (Exodus 12:21)

In this reading, the institution of Passover in Egypt is recalled, as well as the first celebration of Passover in the Promised Land at Gilgal after the Israelites crossed the Jordan.

Passover-Western Wall

Passover at the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem

In Egypt, each family was required to choose a lamb, slaughter it, and place its blood on the top and sides of the doorframe.

“Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe.”  (Exodus 12:22)

This lamb’s blood on the doorpost caused the destroyer to pass over them, and they were spared the plague that fell upon Egypt—the death of the firstborn.

“When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, He will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and He will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.”  (Exodus 12:23)

First Passover-Torah

The Torah opened to the story of the first Passover.

The Spotless Pesach Lamb: Four Days of Inspection

“Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. …  Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.”  (Exodus 12: 3–6)

In Exodus 12, Moses instructs the Jewish People concerning the details of the first Passover offering.

The lamb was to be inspected for four days, from the 10th to the 14th of the month of Nissan, to ensure that it was without spot or blemish.  (Exodus 12:3, 5–6)

Similarly, Yeshua was inspected for four days before He was executed on the stake (cross) on the 14th of Nissan.

He rode into Jerusalem on the 10th day of Nissan—the same day that the Passover lamb was taken to the Temple for four days of close inspection.  (Matthew 21:5)

The Pharisees Question Yeshua (Jesus)-(James Tissot)

The Pharisees Question Yeshua (Jesus), by James Tissot

For four days the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders asked Him some pretty tough questions while He taught in the Temple courts, such as “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?”  (Matthew 21:23; Luke 20:2; Mark 11:28)

Like the Passover offering at the Temple, He was found to be without spot or blemish.

When Yeshua was brought to Pilate, he clearly declared that Yeshua was without any guilt, fault or blame: “I find no fault in Him.”  (John 18:38)

Peter affirms this spotlessness:

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Messiah, a lamb without blemish or defect.”  (1 Peter 1: 18–19)


White lamb amid the flock

Messiah, Our Pesach Lamb: Prophetic Fulfillment

“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”  (John 1:29)

Just like the lamb that was inspected and scrutinized before it was sacrificed at the Temple, Yeshua was also subjected to heavy scrutiny by the Chief Priest and Jewish Elders, until his arrest and execution on the 14th day of the month of Nissan—the Passover!

In perfect fulfillment of Messianic prophecy, at the exact moment that the lambs were being slaughtered, Yeshua was crucified as the Lamb of God to take away our sins.

As the Hebrew prophet Isaiah prophesied of the Messiah, Yeshua was led like a lamb to the slaughter but remained quiet.

“He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He did not open his mouth.”  (Isaiah 53:7)

“Yeshua remained silent and gave no answer.”  (Mark 14:61)

Torah scroll- silver yad-Torah pointer

A handcrafted Torah scroll and silver yad (Torah pointer) for keeping place during the reading.

Salvation Through the Blood Sacrifice

“In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”  (Hebrews 9:22)

In the final plague upon Egypt—the slaying of the firstborn—the good deeds and righteousness of the people did not save them from God’s judgment.  The sign of the blood on the lintel of the door saved them.

Likewise, we are not saved by our works but by faith in the blood sacrifice of Yeshua HaMashiach (The Messiah).

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”  (Ephesians 2:8)

The Sacrificial Lamb-Josefa de Ayala

The Sacrificial Lamb, by Josefa de Ayala

In the same way that the Passover lamb saved the people from destruction, when Yeshua (Jesus) died on the stake (cross), He made atonement for our sins.

When we put our faith in Him, we symbolically apply the blood of the Passover Lamb by faith.

Yeshua gave us the assurance that the Lord will pass over us when He judges the world if we put our faith in Him and His atoning blood.

“I am the resurrection and the life.  The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.  Do you believe this?”  (John 11:25–26)

In the same way that the children of Israel were commanded to remain in their houses under the covering of the blood of the Lamb while God’s judgment was falling upon the Egyptians, we also need to remain under the protective covering of the blood of the Passover Lamb, Yeshua HaMashiach, and not walk in the ways of the world.

Bible-Crown of Thorns

Bible and Crown of Thorns

Rolling Away the Reproach of Egypt

“At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again.”  (Joshua 5:2)

In the haftorah (Prophetic portion), after leading the children of Israel across the Jordan into the Promised Land, in Gilgal Joshua circumcises those who had not been circumcised along the way in the wilderness.

By doing so, he “rolled away the reproach of Egypt.”  (Joshua 5:9)

Gilgal comes from the Hebrew root word G-L, which means to roll.  The Hebrew word for reproach is harfat, which means shame or disgrace.

By failing to practice circumcision in the wilderness, the Israelites may have signified God’s rejection of that generation, since circumcision was a sign of the covenant between God and His people (Genesis 17:10).

Thus, when Joshua circumcised the children of Israel at Gilgal, this represented their restoration to God’s favor and a renewal of the eternal covenant.

It removed the stigma—the shame and disgrace of being slaves in Egypt.

The children of Israel were now free to celebrate the Passover in their own Land.

Passover Seder-Jewish family

Because of the great, prophetic end-time return of the Jewish People to the Promised Land of Israel, this year in Jerusalem, Jewish families throughout Israel will sit together at the Passover Seder table and commemorate their deliverance from slavery in Egypt.

No Longer Galut (Exiles)

Another derivative of the root G-L is galut, the word used for exile from the Land of Israel.

In today’s English, an Israeli might say, “my cousin lives in the galut,” which means that they live outside of Israel.

The prophet Ezekiel said that such exile brings a reproach on the very name of God.

“And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, ‘These are the Lord’s people, and yet they had to leave His land.’”  (Ezekiel 36:20)

Once again in Jewish history, the reproach of exile has been rolled away, since the exiles of Israel have returned to their Land—free to celebrate Passover in Zion and Jerusalem at last.

Passover Seder-Haggadah

A Jewish man celebrating God’s four-fold promise of deliverance of the Jewish People from Egypt during the Passover Seder.

For followers of Yeshua, an even greater rolling away of reproach took place in Israel at Golgotha, a name arising from the Hebrew root G-L, meaning to roll.

Golgotha is where Yeshua HaMashiach finally fulfilled the law regarding the Passover lamb, where all of our sin and shame was nailed to the cross.

The proof that His sacrificing of Himself on our behalf to pay the price for our sin was effective is His resurrection.

On this first day of Passover, may we once again be overcome with gratitude for all that Yeshua suffered for on our behalf.

“No greater love has a man than this; that he lay down his life for his friends.”  (John 15:13)

Though we were dead in our trespasses and sin, and so undeserving of being called His friends, in the immensity of His love, He reached out to us and offered us eternal life.

report article corrections