PESACH 1 5775
The proverbial joke goes: Every Jewish holiday can be encapsulated in these words: “They tried to kill us; Gd saved us; let’s eat!” Surely, Pesach is a perfect example. Unfortunately, these words: “They tried to kill us…” still resonate today.
Pesach is a celebration of Gd’s love. In the 1st part of the Seder we recall how Gd showed His amazing love for us by redeeming us from Egyptian slavery with the 10 Plagues and the crossing of the Red Sea. The 2nd half of the Seder—after dinner—is dedicated to future redemptions. Well, I have to tell you, I think we Jews are in dire need of redemption right now because we live in frightening times.
The world powers assembled at Lausanne, Switzerland, led by John Kerry, this week reached what they called, “a framework deal” with Iran on its nuclear program. What’s in the deal? No one really knows. And whether or not they actually complete the deal this June as promised, the damage it has already caused is irreversible—perhaps a countdown to war. It’s unbelievable, in recent weeks we have watched world powers manipulated into being victims of an Iranian bazaar. But the more immediate victim here is Israel, whom Iran has sworn again this week to annihilate.
Perhaps a good measure of this problem finds its roots in our ancient Egyptian experience. The Nile is a river in Egypt. It’s there that Pharaoh had the Egyptians throw Jewish babies. It was there that the Egyptian enslavement of the Jewish people turned into the Egyptian annihilation of the Jewish people. It all began at the Nile.
The Nile, spelled, “t-h-e- N-i-l-e,” is a river in Egypt. Denial, spelled, “d-e-n-i-a-l,” is how the Egyptians were able to enslave the Jews. After all, the Jews were powerful in ancient Egypt. Their fair-haired boy Joseph became Prime Minister and other Jews held positions of great importance. So how did such a powerful people allow themselves to become enslaved?
The Midrash tell us that it all began innocently enough when Pharaoh ordered proclamations to be posted throughout the country that the cities of Pitom and Ramsis were in urgent need of renovation and he called upon the Egyptian people to show their patriotism by volunteering for this worthy cause. The Jews, wanting to show their loyalty, jumped at the opportunity. The 1st day they worked enthusiastically but in the evening Pharaoh’s soldiers told them: “Count the number of bricks you laid today, since you are expected to reach the same quota tomorrow and every day after.” At 1st the Jews got paid, and then the paychecks stopped. At 1st the Jews were working with their fellow Egyptians and then the Egyptians stopped coming. All along, the Jews remained blind to what was happening to them. They were in denial, as they became slaves for the next 200 years.
The Nile is a river in Egypt…but denial—defined in the dictionary as, “refusal to admit the truth or reality,” was a problem in Egypt way back then, and it’s still a problem.
There’s a global crisis today. There’s an enemy out there which doesn’t fight by the rules of war—an enemy that rapes, beheads, burns and bombs innocent civilians. And it happens every day. And yet, the world’s leaders are in denial when it comes to even naming the enemy; referring to them as “militants” or “extremists”—anything that doesn’t have the word “Islam” in it! But the enemy says they act in the name of Islam, in the name of Ala while we denying it!
And these world leaders are living in a fantasy land if they think Iran has any intensions of keeping this deal—whatever it is. Just this week it reneged on its agreement to ship its enriched uranium to Russia. These world leaders even bowed before Iran’s demand that inspectors be barred from installations Iran defines as “military” and so enabled the ayatollahs to prevent the world from knowing anything worth knowing about its nuclear activities. Iran is to get more than $11billion in the coming weeks and basically her nuclear capabilities are left unchecked. Naturally, the Iranians are dancing in the streets just days after they reaffirmed their intention to destroy Israel.
To add to this jolly mood is the astronomical phenomenon of the Blood Moon Tetrad—4 consecutive Blood Moons falling out only on Jewish holidays: last Passover and Sukkot, this Passover—last night—and next Sukkot. A “Blood Moon” is a total lunar eclipse, so-called from its red color caused by the bending of the sun’s rays around the Earth. This frequency of Blood Moons is a very rare event. In fact, before the 20th century, there was a 300-year period when there were no such eclipses. In the words of NASA, “It’s like drawing a rare lunar poker hand of four of a kind.” This has happened only 8 times in all of history!
Is it a coincidence that all these Blood Moons coincided with Jewish holidays? Last night’s occurred on the 1st night of Pesach. One of the dominant features of the Pesach story is the 10 Plagues which Gd unleashed upon the Egyptians to free the Jewish people. What was the 1st plague? Blood! What was the last? The death of the 1st-born Egyptians and death is always associated with blood! Not only that, but what were the Israelites commanded by Gd to do so that the plague of the 1st-born would pass over their homes? Paint lamb’s blood on their doorways. Coincidence?
And there’s more! Major events of significance to the Jewish people happened on each of the last 3 times these rare blood moons occurred. They were events that changed the course and direction of Jewish history for all time.
- A blood moon coincided with the 6-Day War in 1967 when Israel liberated Jerusalem. Sadly, Jewish blood was spilled during this war.
- There was also a blood moon on the eve of Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948, following a bloody war that took place only a few years after the Holocaust, when the blood of 6 million Jews’ was spilled!
- And finally, there was a blood moon in 1493, when Tomas de Torquemada, the Spanish Inquisitor, began slaughtering Jews. Here too, Jewish blood was spilled.
The prophet Joel (3:3) has Gd saying: “I will set wonders in the heavens and the earth: blood and fire and pillars of smoke; the sun will turn to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and awesome day of Gd.”
Inspired by the words of Joel, some are suggesting that the blood moons are a sign from Gd that we are one step closer to the coming of the Messiah. Mystic Rabbi Amram Vaknin explained that the gematria numeric value of the Hebrew word for blood, dam, is 44, alluding to the 44th president of the United States who would bring dam, bloodshed, to the Jewish people. It should be noted that he made this prediction before Obama became the 44th president.
Lest you think that Rabbi Vaknin is just some crackpot, he correctly predicted the events of the Gaza flotilla and the Carmel forest fire in 2010, Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012 and Operation Protective Edge this past summer. He now warns that Israel is facing great judgment and potential danger at this time. It’s a bit scary, don’t you think?
Moreover, this year in Israel is the Shmita Sabbatical year—a time in which the land in Israel is commanded to be left fallow. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 97a) teaches: “In the 6th year (of the 7 year Shmita cycle) there will be voices of war; in the 7th there will be war; and at the end of the Shmita, the Messiah, son of Jesse will arrive.” Although the Talmud never states in which 7-year cycle in history this will be fulfilled, doesn’t what’s happening today make you want to sit up and pay attention?
The “voices of war” of the 6th year, according to Rashi, means that it will be obvious to anyone who really listens to what’s happening that Mashiach, the messiah, is close. Certainly the increasing conflict of radical Islam in the world contains many signs. The war of the 7th year could be the war in Gaza this summer which really ended just as the 7th year began. Is it possible that Mashiach will come soon? Is something wild or miraculous going to happen during the course of this series of blood moons like it has throughout our history?
We can’t know for sure. But what we can know is that Pesach is here and Pesach tells us that Gd loves us so much that was willing to bend the forces of nature—during the 10 Plagues and the crossing of the Red Sea—to protect His people. No matter how ominous the times, Gd will, in the end, redeem us. This is Gd’s promise. May it come to pass in our time. Amen!
Rabbi Mark Hillel Kunis