In honor of Israel’s 75th birthday, Israel365 is excited to launch a new series of essays that will unlock the secrets of the Hebrew Bible!Excerpted from Rabbi Akiva Gersh’s forthcoming book, 75 Hebrew Words You Need to Understand the Bible (available soon!) these essays illuminate the connection between related Hebrew words, revealing Biblical secrets only accessible through Hebrew.
Enjoy the series – and happy 75th birthday to the State of Israel!
“For God, when going through to smite the Egyptians, will see the blood on the lintel and the two doorposts, and God will pass over the door and not let the destroyer enter and smite your home.” (Exodus 12:23)
ועבר יהוה לנגף את מצרים וראה את הדם על המשקוף ועל שתי המזוזת ופסח יהוה על הפתח ולא יתן המשחית לבא אל בתיכם לנגף.
“Observe the month of Spring and offer a passover sacrifice to your God, for it was in the month of Spring, at night, that your God freed you from Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 16:1)
שמור את חדש האביב ועשית פסח ליהוה אלהיך כי בחדש האביב הוציאך יהוה אלהיך ממצרים לילה.
Pesach, Hebrew for “Passover,” first appears in the verse that describes God “passing over” the houses of the Israelites during the tenth and final plague, the killing of the firstborn. In order to save themselves, the Israelites were commanded to take the blood of a slaughtered sheep and place it on the door post of their home. This served as a sign that Israelites lived in the house, preventing the destroyer from entering the home and killing the firstborn of the family during the plague. In recognition of this miracle, the foundational holiday of the people of Israel is called “Passover.”
When the Temple stood in Jerusalem, the people of Israel were obligated to celebrate the three pilgrimage festivals – Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot – together with God in the holy city. “Three times a year… [you] shall appear before your God in the place that God will choose” (Deuteronomy 16:16). On the afternoon before Passover began, each family would bring the korban pesach, the sacrificial paschal lamb, which was eaten at the Passover Seder.
The word pesach is derived from a combination of two other Hebrew words, peh and sach, meaning “the mouth speaks.” This reflects an essential element of Seder night, the first night of Passover, when Jews are commanded to speak about the miracles that God performed for their ancestors in Egypt. Every year, parents are obligated to share this story with their children to ensure the tradition and history of the people of Israel is passed on to each successive generation. On this night, we remember God’s great love for the Israelites and the awesome wonders and miracles He performed to bring the chosen nation from slavery to freedom.