by Rabbi Jeffrey Adler
In ancient Egypt, Israel was powerless before the might of the Pharaoh and his government establishment. The people were enslaved and beaten, oppressed, forced to carry out the whims of their cruel master. Even when Moses, then an Egyptian prince, tried to rescue 2 solitary Israelis being oppressed by a solitary taskmaster, his action backfired and he had to flee in fear and disgrace. For 40 years, he was a forgotten man, focusing his attentions on a community of shepherds and flocks of sheep and goats.
Suddenly, this man who had seemed to be the right man in the right place to be a hero, was rescued in what seemed to be his lowest moment. God spoke to him from a burning bush, sending him back to the scene of his failure and disgrace, now needing to be totally dependent on Adonai.
Moses is led to introduce a series of devastating plagues on Egypt, bringing suffering on Pharaoh and his population and land. Still, Israel was enslaved. The final plague, more devastating than the others, posed a danger to any and all that failed to put their trust in the Lord. The Lord Himself would go through the territory of Egypt, striking the firstborn of every home dead- unless they were to for each family slaughter a 1-year old lamb or goat, splashing its blood on the lintel and posts of their doors. How strange this must have seemed- 400 years of bondage undone by some meek, weak, lambs!
Yet, that is precisely what occurred. Pharaoh was broken. His people begged him to release Israel before the country was completely decimated. He relented. Israel, after one more disastrous relenting by the king, leading to loss of the nation’s cavalry in the Red Sea, was free to go home to the land promised to Abraham and the other patriarchs.
God still uses the seemingly weak to accomplish mighty ends. The Passover lamb is an object lesson pointing to the promised Messiah. Isaiah 53 describes Him as: He will be led like a lamb to slaughter; as a sheep is silent before his shearers, so, He will not open His Mouth…By His stripes we will be healed.
Modern Passover seders generally, because of the absence of the Temple altar (Deuteronomy 12) and a functioning priesthood, do not serve lamb. Still, there is the lamb shank bone representing that original lamb in Egypt, pointing to the real Lamb, the ultimate Lamb, Who takes away the world’s sin. Though appearing to come in weakness, He, by His self-sacrifice a couple of thousand years ago, accomplished the mightiest act of all- delivering all who put their trust in Him from an oppressor more powerful than Pharaoh, sin and death and Hell.
Worthy is the Lamb Who was slain!
Rabbi Jeffrey Adler is president of the Board of HaShomer and also Rabbi of Sha’arey Yeshua in Indianapolis, IN.