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A Passover Day Dedicated to the Coming of the Messiah

The Eighth Day of Passover
Deuteronomy 15:19–16:17; Isaiah 10:32–12:6; 1 Corinthians 15:35–16:24; Revelation 2:1–7; Maftir: Numbers 28:19–25

“On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day.  Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat; that is all you may do.”  (Exodus 12:16)

A Jewish boy eats a piece of matzah. Before him is a bowl of matzah ball soup.

A Jewish boy eats a piece of matzah. Before him is a bowl of matzah ball soup.

It has been a full week—seven days—of eating matzah (unleavened bread) and abstaining from all forms of leaven during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, most of which coincides with Pesach (Feast of Passover).  In Israel, the last day of Passover began on Thursday night and draws to a close on Friday night.

It is a holy day celebrated with the lighting of “yom tov” candles, recital of blessings, Kiddush (sanctified wine), special services in the synagogue, and often a festive meal. In addition, no driving or forms of “work” are permitted, just like on all major Jewish holidays.

Last night, on the seventh night of Passover, some Jewish people stayed awake all night.  They do this because the Israelites are believed to have crossed the Red Sea on that night of Passover.  It was an all-night event that demonstrated the miraculous and awesome power of God.

The Torah reading for the seventh day of Passover (Exodus 13:17–15:26) includes the recounting of the crossing of the Red Sea.  Jewish people then sing the Song of Moses—the same one sung by the ancient Israelites thousands of years ago when they rejoiced over their victory in safely reaching the other side:

“Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD:  ‘I will sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted.  The horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.’”  (Exodus 15:1)

Crossing of the Red Sea, by Cornelis de Wael

Crossing of the Red Sea, by Cornelis de Wael

While Passover is now drawing to a close in Israel, the last day of Passover is just beginning in the Diaspora (Jews living outside Israel).

This extra day for Passover or Pesach for Jews living outside Israel was instituted by rabbinic decree from early on.  One purpose may have been to raise awareness among members of the Jewish communities living outside of Israel that they could come home out of exile.

Another reason, perhaps the original reason, however, for the extra day has to do with the timing of the holiday.

Originally, the beginning of the month was established at the sighting of the New Moon in Jerusalem, which set the exact day of the celebration of holidays.  Special messengers were dispatched from Jerusalem so that throughout Israel, as well as the Diaspora, holidays would be celebrated on the proper day.

Of course, the messengers did not always arrive before the holiday, so an extra day was added to some holidays, including Passover.

But in regards to time, there is another difference between the eighth day and the rest of Passover; the eighth day looks forward to a future redemption rather than back to a past redemption. 

A family Passover Seder (ritual meal)

A family Passover Seder (ritual meal)

From Redemption in Egypt to Final Redemption in the Messianic Era

The Exodus from Egypt marked a new beginning for the Israelites—the birthing of their nation.

But theirs was no ordinary nation, for when they stepped out of Egypt, they stepped into a Divine call and destiny.  God Himself would guide them so that their Divine call and destiny would be fulfilled: to be a holy nation and kingdom of priests holding out to the other nations the Torah and Light of the World.

Israel’s nationhood was conceived with God’s personal call to Abraham.  It continued to grow through Isaac and Jacob and the twelve sons that became the 12 tribes, which multiplied to great numbers in just 400 years.  And finally upon the exodus from Egypt, birthing the nation that would bring about the blessing of God to the world.

Each year at Passover, we are to consider that we ourselves left Egypt those many years ago.  But this looking back also points to our present.  Each of us has our own personal Egypt from which we need deliverance.

Still, this extra day of Passover changes the focus from the redemption of our first exile to a future, final Messianic redemption of the Jewish People.

According to Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, “The two are intimately connected, the beginning and end of one process, with God in the future redemption showing wonders ‘as in the days of your exodus from Egypt.’”  (Micah 7:15)

A white lamb.

A white lamb.

The Torah reading for the eighth day of Passover (Deuteronomy 15:19–16:17) reminds us that the firstborn of one’s herd belongs to God. Of course, this is connected to the sparing of the firstborn Israelites whose houses were marked with the blood of the lamb.

This Parasha reading also describes the offerings that were to be brought to the Temple for seven days during Pesach.

And it provides a variety of laws, including those related to tithes, the year of release (Shemitah year), the release of slaves, and a comprehensive description of the Shalosh Regalim (three pilgrimage festivals):  Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Pentecost), and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles)—festivals during which God requires the Israelites to make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem.

Although the Temple does not exist today, plans have been drawn up for the creation of the Third Temple.  The Temple vessels and priestly garments have also been created, and the priests are already in training.

This is the Temple in which the anti-Messiah will set up the abomination of the desolation in the Last Days.  It is also the Temple that Yeshua (Jesus) will return to and demonstrate once again how zealous He is for His Father’s house.

plan of Ezekiel's Temple Charles Chipiez.

Ezekiel’s vision of the Third Temple

The Prophesied Final Redemption

This Haftarah passage was specially chosen to be chanted on the last day of Passover because it contains several allusions to the redemption from Egypt.

The Haftarah, from the Book of Isaiah (Isaiah 10:32–12:6), begins with a prediction that Assyria will be defeated.  This defeat apparently occurred on Passover, according to Jewish tradition.

In this Haftarah reading, Assyria is described as the rod of God’s anger in punishing Israel’s unfaithfulness.  But Assyria itself will be punished because it went beyond God’s bidding by being excessively cruel to Jerusalem.  (Isaiah 10:11)

Furthermore, it attributed its success against Jerusalem to its own might.  (Isaiah 10:12–15)

Isaiah 37 describes the Assyrian army’s unsuccessful campaign against Jerusalem.  In one night, the angel of the Lord struck down 185,000 in the camp.  Assyria failed to crush Jerusalem.

The power of David’s throne in Jerusalem continues through the Messiah; this Haftarah portion promises that a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse (King David’s father).

That shoot is the Messiah, and the Spirit of the Lord, Isaiah says, will rest on Him.  (Isaiah 11:1–2)

This reading further states that He will reign in Israel, and the nations will seek out His counsel.

The Haftarah continues with Isaiah’s message of hope that the Israelites will again be gathered together from lands of exile and return to Israel.

Two hundred new immigrants from Ethiopia attend a model Seder at the Jewish Agency Absorption Center in Mevasseret Zion outside Jerusalem, in preparation for their first Passover in Israel.

Two hundred new immigrants from Ethiopia attend a model Seder at the Jewish Agency Absorption Center in Mevasseret Zion outside Jerusalem, in preparation for their first Passover in Israel.

The reading also contains the famous great vision of the Messianic Era in which both society and nature will undergo a complete transformation—a new exodus, as it were.

Peace and harmony will reign supreme among all people as the Messiah governs by God’s Spirit and not through force.

Isaiah offers a prophetic vision of the final redemption.  He includes some of the most known and perhaps appealing images of the harmony of the soon-coming Messianic era, as well as the return of the Jewish People to the land of Israel, which will be ruled by the Messiah.

“The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.”  (Isaiah 11:6)

“He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; He will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.”  (Isaiah 11:12) 

The Peaceable Kingdom, by Edward Hicks

The Peaceable Kingdom, by Edward Hicks

The Jewish People Long for Their Messiah

While all of Passover points to future redemption, the eighth day of Passover is distinguished by focusing on the Messianic redemption, so much so that the final meal at the end of the Eighth day is called the Feast of the Messiah.

The redemption that Messiah brings will be a complete redemption in which Israel will no longer be in exile.

Past redemptions are considered incomplete in Judaism because the possibility for exile remained; however, in the final redemption, all possibilities for exile will be obliterated.  (Chabad)

Many Christians today are unaware that the belief in the coming of the Messiah is a cardinal tenet of the Jewish faith.

The Jewish People have looked for centuries for a Messianic deliverer who would bring world peace.

Nationally speaking they do not yet recognize that Yeshua (Jesus) is the promised Messiah for whom they have been longing, or that He will soon be returning to Jerusalem as the King of Israel.  However, the Prophet Zechariah does promise that Israel will one day recognize Yeshua as the Messiah:

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication.  They will look on Me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for Him as one grieves for a firstborn son.”  (Zechariah 12:10)

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