Then Moses said to the people, “Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the LORD brought you out of it with a mighty hand. Eat nothing containing yeast.” — Exodus 13:3
This month marks one of the most ancient and holiest of Jewish celebrations, Pesach, or Passover. It is a celebration of God’s redemption of His people, Israel, from bondage, and freedom is a theme underlying the celebration. Please enjoy this collection of timeless devotions from my father, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, on this sacred observance. – Yael Eckstein, President
Passover is a joyous holiday. We celebrate the fact that God hears our prayers and intervenes in history in order to bring salvation. However, as we take a good look at the Passover story, the details reveal that salvation comes in many different guises.
In Exodus 13:3 we are commanded: “Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery . . . Eat nothing containing yeast.” We are given two distinct directives. One is to commemorate the day that God took Israel out of Egypt and the other is to refrain from eating anything with yeast. What is the connection between the observance of Passover and the dietary restrictions?
Let’s go back to Exodus 12. Late at night during the final plague, Pharaoh approached Moses and said: “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites!” (v.31). Pharaoh sent the Israelites packing so fast that the people didn’t have time to finish baking their bread: “So the people took their dough before the yeast was added . . .” (v.34). By refraining from foods with yeast on Passover, we remember not just that God redeemed Israel, but also how Israel was saved.
The Jewish sages teach that on the eve of the Exodus, many of the Israelites were hesitant to leave Egypt. Pharaoh had to literally kick them out without giving them any time to think, plan, or retreat, in order to get them marching toward their freedom.
This reminds me of the following story: There was once a wealthy man who was known for throwing elaborate parties. At one such party, the man announced that he had placed alligators and sharks into one of his pools. Anyone who would swim from one end of the pool to the other would be granted any request. Suddenly, there was a splash and the guests watched in shock and admiration as a man swam deftly and quickly, narrowly escaping the deadly waters. When he emerged from the pool, the wealthy man commended him and asked what his wish was: “What I’d like most is to know the name of the man who pushed me in the water!”
Sometimes we are pushed into dangerous waters that we would never dare enter. Sometimes that’s what it takes to get us to do the things we never knew we were capable of achieving. On Passover, we remember not only that Israel was saved, but also that salvation can come from the most unlikely places. Often the things we thought were working against us are what will lead to victory. So this Passover, trust God and His plan. That push we thought might bring us down can be the push we need to soar.