Passover 2017, came and went. On the day of preparations, my son asked me, why are we celebrating Passover? We aren’t even Jewish! That’s true, and in fact not being Jewish gives him a reason to ask. Each year I say to myself, ‘I will use this question as an opportunity to fill the commandment: “When your children ask you ‘what is this? Then you tell them, we were slaves in Egypt and God brought us out with a powerful hand…I forgot… again. My weak answer to my son’s divine question was, because God says to do it in the bible. I’m really no different than the children of Israel, they were concerned that God wouldn’t feed them shortly after he parted the red sea to save them. They forgot, I forget, maybe we’re all a bunch of forgetters.
The meal was entertaining, the company delicious. There were only a few speed bumps. Last night which was the first night of Passover, I made the best cheroset I have ever made. I’m not bragging I’m telling the truth. Cheroset is an apple and honey mixture that is a traditional Passover fare eaten with matza and bitter herbs. The mixture is a sensual reminder of the mortar the Israelites used to make brick. It’s also a reminder that even in the worst suffering God’s grace and goodness can sweeten our experience. The trick is this: blend with pulsation after you make the cheroset, eat with bitter herbs on matza.
The meal itself was simple and the texture of everything was perfect, the potatoes were not overcooked, the roast was not tough, the salad was the freshest I’ve eaten in months. The table setting was decent for our space and budget. It was casual- yet effective, bearing all the necessary substances of slavery and freedom.
The company was fantastic. They were patient, participatory, well behaved and gracious. It was a joyful moment in time. It was my first time “leading” a Seder, pronounced, say-dur. Seder means, ritual order, and I decided to use a new traditional order rather than an old familiar one because I’m so ambitious. So ambitious in fact I used 2 separate Haggadah’s simultaneously, not a great idea. Sometime between forgetting the Second Cup and skipping the Four Children, I pictured myself throwing the book over my shoulder and running out the door in haste. But I didn’t and we finished. I was a nervous, slightly insecure about my knowledge and feeling somewhat like an outsider, or a phony. As my son said, we aren’t Jewish and yet there we were not only celebrating Passover, but inviting others to join us as if I knew what I was doing! Thankfully I had a few moments of divine intervention and the Holy Spirit helped me finish strong.
I was embarrassed about the ant farm that showed up the morning of Passover. Crawling all over my cabinets I felt like I was inside the APP Ant Smasher. They were everywhere, I killed one and three more appeared. I just hoped none would end up in anyone’s bitter herbs. We figured that when I cleaned out the cabinets I eliminated their food supply and they decided they needed to migrate out in search of the chametz (leavened foods) There’s none! I told them, and then squashed the closest one with my fist. But I may have lied. The toaster is still outside full of chametz! I really wanted to forget all about it.
The Passover cookbook I ordered and paid 26.95 for showed up by mail along with my first guest, oh well, I can use it for next year.
My last bit of chametz sits outside, a tiny little half used bag of flour, in our fire pit ready to burn, but I forgot.
My generous friend brought a traditional chocolate brownie cake for dessert to our feast of unleavened bread. She is fasting for Easter so she couldn’t have wine, cheroset, matza, or really anything but vegetables. I told the children to ask questions and then couldn’t remember the answers. My mind kept going blank. Oh well grace grace…. God’s grace…perfection isn’t what we think it is.
Before all my wonderful guests arrived, I did my last bits of cleaning -counters and floors. I realized something so deep and profound about perfection. And it’s this- I can’t be perfect. I probably had this revelation before but I’m a forgetter. Cleaning out reminded me again, maybe that’s the whole point of celebrating year after year throughout all generations. I simply cannot clean out my dwelling perfectly or completely it’s impossible, and yet God instructs this. But how can we, I mean every crumb? I suppose this is why the Rabbi’s have a prayer for disowning the chametz in their dwellings, “all chametz in my possession, whether I have seen it or not , whether I remove it or not , shall be nullified and ownerless as the dust of the earth.” This is how they get around the command when falling short. Ultimately, we cannot get all of it, we cannot keep it perfectly, without flaw or blemish, so we must rely on God’s help at the end. We must have faith and by faith remember that God gives us commands that require his intervention. I cannot get the toaster breadless, I can’t get into that deep crack between the stove and the counter, or the crumbs the ants have dragged into every crevice possible. The cat food, the cookie we stepped in at the market and dragged in on the bottom of our shoe, or the unexpected chocolate cake. Even if it might be physically possible to remove every crumb, you can’t do it the day before and you can’t be unleavened for only seven days.
But God knew all this and still he commanded it. “seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses.” Exodus 12:15
He gave this command to who? Israel, a mixed multitude. To all those who identify with Him, follow the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, any who have been rescued by his outstretched hand from Mitzrayim (a tight place) , and all who have received his word by faith.
Why would he give a command that is impossible to perform? Because it is only in the attempting to perform do we realize we cannot do it without him, and so we cry out. When we throw off the burden of his commandments we lose something, humility. The knowledge of inadequacy.
Leaven is like sin, evil inclination and impure forces. The Messiah takes care of it, we don’t have to “get it all” we don’t have to be perfect at our Seder meals, and with our guests, and regarding cleaning our houses of leaven. And yet, If he takes cares of the things we can’t get to, doesn’t he take care of the things we can get to? Yes and If we don’t clean out the big stuff in our hearts, it’s evidence we don’t care about the stuff we can’t reach, like the crack between the stove and counter, its like we aren’t even aware of it. the worst thing we can do, is to stop keeping the commands because of the Messiah, Yshua Messiah kept all the commands perfectly for us, not from us. He did not release us from doing, he released us from dying. Yshua came to forgive us for breaking the commandments. He came to eradicate sin, not obedience. He came to do what we couldn’t do, so that we could do what we had to do – through him.
For some reason sin exists in the world today, even though he has died for our sins, what’s our loophole, how do we get around that one? The final battle Satan will be destroyed and there will be no more sin. In the final plague death will be gone and we won’t have to deal with anymore sin in the world. But for now we must pay attention to the commandments which reveal sin, so that we can practice righteousness, walk in the light and confess our sin. So what? He commands us not to sin, which is another impossible command, yet he makes himself available to us.
Messiah defeated the works of the devil, his blood cleanses us, and we are called to do the preliminary work of repentance, obedience and faithfulness. We must not forget how often Yshua said, “go and sin no more” or that, “everyone who has this hope fixed on Yshua purifies himself just as He is pure,” “wash your hands you sinners and purify your hearts you double minded.” Sometimes we even forget that Jesus said, “if you love me than you will keep my commandments.” Not to be perfect or saved, but because we love Him. If we are not willing to purify ourselves of sin and we prove that we don’t care whether we have sin. Paul says, “clean out the old leaven that you may be a new batch.” God blesses obedience, not perfection.
It’s impossible to get every crumb of sin in our lives, or each bit of chametz from our kitchens. There are so many sins we don’t even know about, but ‘what’s impossible for us is possible with God, ‘with God all things are possible.’ He has given us time, to do some cleaning, before the final battle. Before the last call, before his return and judgment. He has told us to be ready.
When we begin to remove evil inclination, impure thoughts and behavior through repentance this is evidence a desire for righteousness. This is a heart devoted to God, and the man after God’s heart is aware that he must rely on God for the completion and perfection of repentance, and total cleansing. What we can’t do we pray for God to intervene, like the Rabbi’s it’s not a loophole, it’s humility. Yshua said, “take my yoke upon you, for my burden is light and my yoke is easy.” What does this mean except he bears it with us.
A man who begins to clean out the old leaven, by his actions, asks God to make him clean. “it is the little foxes that ruin the vineyard”, “the hidden leaven that leavens the whole lump of dough.” Small, impossible to reach ‘crumbs of sin’ can be ruinous. As insignificant as they may seem, forgotten chametz are the very ones we need Jesus for the most.
We must begin the process, we must recognize the need for the removal, we must cry out for mercy. It is written by the Rabbi’s “that Israel’s deliverance began when they cried out. As long as they did not cry out they were not ready for redemption.” (Page 89. Zion and Dishon, Manachem HaCohen.) We are responsible to bring our sin before Christ, just as we are responsible to cry out to prove our readiness for redemption.
Why do we clean out when He can do it all. Why do we bother doing anything, isn’t it showing more faith if we sit back and let God perform miracles and just believe? Cleaning out is like the crying out, it discloses our readiness for redemption. “Repent for the kingdom draws near, look up for your redemption draws near, be ready, for the Lord will come at an hour you do not think he will.” God in keeping with form and function continues to tell us to work to manifest our faith.
The last plague God sent through Egypt was death of the firstborn. God required their efforts, because their involvement revealed their faith in his word, and what he said was going to happen. How else can we unsheathe our faith? Those who believed that God was going to judge Egypt and smite the firstborn -like he declared, were the first to get their lamb. I bet they were the first to paint their doors. They were ready for freedom and believed God for it, which made them all the more eager to obey. God can save and spare without blood on the lintels, and yet he commanded them to put the blood there, their obedience revealed their faith.
Messiah can remove all our sin and yet we are told to “work out our own salvation.” He instructs us to ‘repent for the kingdom of heaven… new Jerusalem is close!’ Its near right at the door with Elijah and Messiah.
I believe God commands us to do things that we cannot do on purpose, so that we turn to him for help.
Hopefully I remember next year, when my son asks to say… “because son, we were slaves and God rescued us with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.” I might add this: I was a slave in the world and to the world. I was in a tight place, in a prison of death and sin, and when I realized I couldn’t free myself although I tried, and because I tried – I cried out. Perhaps those who don’t try don’t really want to be free. God delivered me with an outstretched hand, He redeemed my soul because I could not. I can’t overcome in the final battle. In the last moments and days of preparations. That battle belongs to the Lord. Those final details of cleansing he takes care of for those whose hearts fully are devoted to him. And all the hidden sin that lies beneath the surface of my heart, like crumbs in the cracks of the floor, he removes and washes with and by His Word. Because I trust in his word. We eat matza for seven days because God commands that we remember. Remember that we can’t be perfect without Him.