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Shabbat and Pesach (Exodus 12:21-51)

“The Lord said to Joshua, “This day, I will exalt you in the eyes of all Israel,
so they shall know I will be with you as I was with Moses.” (Joshua 3:7)

Because the first day of Pesach falls on Shabbat, the weekly cycle of parashot (Torah portions) is interrupted by a special holiday reading. There is also a special haftarah, or Prophetic reading.

The haftarah describes events that take place in Canaan immediately after the Israelite conquest: the circumcision of the generation of men born in the desert and the Israelites’ first celebration of Pesach in Canaan. It is not accidental the language evokes memories of life in Egypt.

When the Israelites cross the Jordan River into Canaan, the waters, “stood in a single heap” (Josh. 3:15-16), recalling the Red Sea (Ex. 15:8). The Israelites come up from the Jordan on the tenth day of the month (Josh. 4:19) recalling the command in Egypt to select a lamb on the tenth day of the first month (Ex. 12:2-3). They are commanded to sacrifice that lamb on the 14th day of the month at night (Josh. 5:10), recalling a similar command in Egypt (Ex. 12:6). Next, they are commanded to eat unleavened bread (Josh. 5:11), recalling the same command in Egypt (Ex. 12:19-20). Finally, Joshua is confronted by a man who identifies himself as, ”The captain of the Lord’s host” (Josh. 5:13-14), who commands him to take his shoes off, “for the place where you stand is holy.” (Josh. 5:15). The parallel to Moses at the burning bush (Ex. 3:5) is explicit.

The haftarah doesn’t narrate history; it structures memory. The first rituals in Canaan are a memory bridge, reminding the Israelites in their new land how to remember where they came from. History may pass, but memory lasts.

Gut Shabbos/Gut Yontif/A Zisn Peysach
Shabbat Shalom/Happy Holiday/A Sweet Passover

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