The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. — Psalm 18:2
For the next seven days, Jews around the world will celebrate 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 holy season for both Christians and Jews. – Yael Eckstein, President
During this holy season for both faiths, I wish my Jewish friends a blessed Passover, and to my Christian friends, a blessed Easter. I have been sharing some devotional reflections on the Passover celebration and the lessons that can be gleaned from it for Jews and Christians alike. In fact, many of the sacred aspects of Christian worship trace their spiritual roots directly to the Jewish faith and the early history of the nation of Israel.
Such is the case with the term “Paschal Lamb,” or “Lamb of God,” which in the Christian tradition refers to Jesus. From the Jewish perspective, the term is Korban Pesach, or “sacrifice of Passover,” which dates back to the first Exodus. The blood of a sacrificed lamb, which was smeared on the doorframes of each Jewish household, served as a sign of deliverance from death striking their firstborn sons. The lamb’s blood would be the only path to salvation — without it, their firstborn would die, along with those of the Egyptians.
Additionally, the lamb represented the idols, or false gods, that the Egyptians worshiped. By killing a lamb, the Israelites were, in essence, defying their Egyptian masters as well as demonstrating once again the power of the God of Israel over the Egyptian gods. As you have read last week, it was also a sign of great faith. Only those families who marked their doors with the lamb’s blood were redeemed.
In the times of the Jewish temple worship, Jews obeyed God’s command to remember the first Passover by sacrificing a lamb on that day. This lamb had to be male, one year old, and most importantly, without blemish. Only then would it suffice to be the perfect Passover sacrifice. (See Exodus 12:5.)
This Passover observance is what Christians reference when speaking of “a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19).
It is also true that Jesus, as an observant Jew, and his disciples were celebrating the Passover on the very night that he foretold his coming death. Jesus followed the same divine instructions that were given to Moses as he broke bread with his disciples. (See Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16; and Luke 22:7-13.) And later, the apostle Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians to “keep the Festival” (Passover/Lord’s Supper) with unleavened bread.
Indeed, the Christian observance of Easter resonates back to the story of the Jews’ escape and deliverance from Egyptian bondage three thousand years ago. Understanding the story of Passover and rich symbolism of the seder meal gives a new richness to many of the worship traditions at churches around the world.
This year, as my Christian friends celebrate Easter, it is good to remember the Jews’ miraculous deliverance on that first Passover and of God’s divine leadership taking them from bondage to freedom. Let us celebrate and praise along with David, in the words of Psalm 18, our rock, our fortress, and the horn of our salvation.