Birth of the Miracle Nation
Mah Nishtanah HaLila HaZeh MiKol HaLayLot …And so begins the Passover Seder as the youngest person
present traditionally gets to ask what is know as “the Four Questions”. In Hebrew, we actually “sing” them and it turns out that the “Four Questions” are really four answers to one big question: “Why is this night different from all other nights?” I recently heard a Rabbi speaking about Passover and the Four Questions. He said, “The Talmudic way of studying Torah is questions and answers. Not statements. Jews live on questions.” The Hebrew word for ‘questions’ is שאלות (she-eh-lot), but in the case of the phrase “The Four Questions”, the word קושיות (koo-she’ot) is used. It is from Hebrew root: קשה – ‘ka-sheh’ which means ‘difficult’. The Rabbi’s say this is a question in which you must really dig and search for the answer. The writers of the Passover Hagadah built in the “Four Questions” so that the answer is the story (Heb: מגיד – Maggid) of the Passover (Heb: פסח – Pesach). This method of teaching is also evident in the New Testament. Read the four Gospels and note how often the Scribes, Lawyers (experts in the Law of Moses), Pharisees, Sadducees and others come to Jesus always asking questions. And how did Jesus answer them? With more questions!
Freedom (Heb: חופש – cho-fesh) is a major theme of Passover celebrations. The children of Israel had been slaves in Egypt for 430 years to the day (Exodus 12:41) until the night of Pesach. On THIS night, Nisan 14th, the exact night the 430 years ended, God birthed a nation and led them out of Egypt! God had promised Jacob in Genesis 46:4: “I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again”. The children of Israel went from being slaves (Exodus 1:11) to being an army (Exodus 12:51) in one night. Every miracle that God works in has two components: physical and spiritual. On the night of Passover, God did not just free slaves, but He redeemed the children of Israel as well. (Exodus 12:21-28) The blood of the Passover lamb on the doorposts of each home was a mark of that salvation. Notice that salvation must be at the individual level. For Israel, it was home by home. It depended entirely on the application of the blood of the Passover lamb to the doorpost of the house. The freedom was at a national level – the children of Israel went out of Egypt en-masse.
The nation of Israel was born, not by fighting a revolution, but through prayers from below and miracles from above. God choose Moses to lead Israel, not because of his military prowess – although Josephus tells us that he was a military commander of renown when he served in Pharoah’s court. But God choose Moses because he had a heart willing to pray for his people and intercede for them. Even to die for them! (Exodus 32:32). The books of the Torah are replete with example after example of Moses interceding with God on the behalf of Israel. Moses did not care for his own welfare, but only for His people – Israel.
The entire T’nakh (Old Testament) is full of miracle after miracle that God worked on behalf of Israel. The Ten Plagues upon Egypt were only plagues from the Egyptians viewpoint. To the children of Israel, these were miracles that Moses worked on their behalf so that eventually, Pharoah let them go! The modern Hebrew word for ‘miracle’ is ניס – nes. In Biblical Hebrew, miracle is often the translation of the Heb: אות – ot, Strong’s #0226. I love to read Exodus 14 and picture in my mind the great miracle (Heb: ניס גדול – nes gadol) of the parting of the Red Sea! Jewish tradition says that Nahshon ( נַחְשׁ֖וֹן ) was the very first person to step forward into the Red Sea. Nahshon was a prince of the tribe of Judah (1 Chron. 2:10) and grandfather of Boaz (1 Chron. 2:11). He is listed in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:4 (there his name is spelled Naasson). The writer of Hebrews specifically says that the children of Israel were able to cross the Red Sea because they had faith. (Hebrews 11:29)
But the miracle working God of the Old Testament has not gone on vacation! If the birth of the nation of Israel was a ‘Night to Remember’, so was the re-birth! According to the prophet Jeremiah (16:14-16), the first Passover and the exodus from Egypt was a small miracle compared to the rebirth of the nation which we have seen in this generation. Read about the miracle of November 29th, 1947 – the night the UN voted ‘yes’ for the partition. The people of Israel danced in the street. Also, on this EXACT SAME DAY, the first of the Dead Sea Scrolls (containing the Isaiah scroll which prophesied of this rebirth), were purchased by Professor Eleazar Sukenik. The events surrounding the re-birth of modern Israel in 1948 was also a nes gadol – big miracle! What nation EVER died and then revived after 2,000 years? Only Israel! What language EVER died in common use and then revived after 2,000 years? Only Hebrew! The language of Israel and the Jewish people. Read the history of Modern Israel since 1948, and you will find plenty of miracles. Israel’s first prime minister, David ben Gurion said, “In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.” Israel is the land of miracles and almost every Jewish holiday is a celebration of some miracle! In the end, Israel will be saved from her enemies the SAME WAY that Israel has always overcome – with prayers from below and miracles from above. So let us stand in solidarity with our Jewish friends during their time of freedom and let us continue always in prayer for them. And watch out for those miracles. They will appear!
“Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be said, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers. Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the LORD, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.” – Jeremiah 16:14-16