Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Service for Intermediate Shabbat of Pesach
Exodus 33:12-34:26 and additional reading of the Song of Songs
After Israel worshipped the golden calf, Moshe shattered the first set of tablets. Now, he ascends the mountain for a second time in order to receive a new set of tablets. He pleads for G-d’s assurance of support. G-d reassures Moshe and Moshe takes down a new set of tablets. He tells Moshe that He will not show Moshe His glory as Moshe begs Him, but will cause all His goodness to pass before him in his presence, and that He will pronounce His Name of Adonai. He explains He will show mercy and favor to whomever He chooses. Finally, G-d tells Moshe that no human can look upon His face and live; rather, He will provide Moshe protection with His hand as He passes by.
Notice the partnership as G-d instructs Moshe to cut two more tablets; a different scenario that the previous two tablets. In the first instance, the tablets were the work of G-d; and the writing was the writing of G-d engraved on both sides of the tablets (Ex. 32:15-16). In the second narrative, Moshe is to cut two tablets, and G-d writes the words as He had on the first tablets (Ex. 34:1,4).
Next Moshe ascends the mountain and G-d descends in the cloud; another example of the relationship G-d seeks to have with His creation. Moshe was required to ascend the mountain, not sit and wait for G-d to come down and hand him the tablets! G-d stood with Moshe in the cloud and proclaimed [His Name] YUD-HEH-VAV-HEH (Adonai is G-d, merciful and compassionate, slow to anger [ note that this does not mean He cannot or does not become angry], showing grace to the thousandth generation, forgiving offenses, crimes, and sins; yet not exonerating the guilty, but causing the negative effects of the parents’ offenses to be experienced by their children and grandchildren, even to the third and fourth generation (Ex. 34:5-7).
G-d tells Moshe that the people are not to assimilate with the nations G-d will drive out before them as they take possession of the Land, but are to demolish everything that has to do with idolatrous gods and practices. He goes so far as to tell Moshe that one of His very Names is “Jealous-is a jealous G-d” (Ex. 34:13). He elaborates on the reason for His forbidding such assimilation and idolatry; because the people will become a degenerate people who forsake the G-d who brought them out of Egypt, giving them another chance for redemption and ultimate salvation.
Verses 17-26 provide very explicit mandates/commands from G-d that apply to all generations. Obedience to these designated times and commands are paramount if we hope to spend eternity with G-d. “They are the terms of the covenant “I have made with you and with Israel” (all true believers) (Ex. 34:17-27):
“Do not cast metal gods for yourselves.”
“Keep the festival of matzah by eating matzah, as I ordered you, for seven days during the month of Aviv; for it was in the month of Aviv that you came out from Egypt.”
“Everything that is first from the womb is mine. All of your livestock, you are to set aside for me the males, the firstborn of cattle and flock. The firstborn of a donkey you must redeem with a lamb; if you won’t redeem it, break its neck. All the firstborn of your sons you are to redeem, and no one is to appear before me empty-handed.”
“Six days you will work, but on the seventh day you are to rest-even in plowing time and harvest season you are to rest.”
Observe the festival of Shavu’ot with the first-gathered produce of the wheat harvest, and the festival of ingathering at the turn of the year. Three times a year all your men are to appear before the L-rd, Adonai, the G-d of Israel. For I am going to expel nations ahead of you and expand your territory, and no one will even covet your land when you go up to appear before Adonai your G-d three times a year. You are not to offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread, and the sacrifice of the feast of Pesach is not to be left until morning. You are to bring the best firstfruits of your land into the house of Adonai your G-d.”
“You are not to boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.” This command is mentioned three times in the Tanakh; Ex: 25:19; 34:26; Deut.14:21. This sentence seems to be out of place with the rest of the narrative. However, it is very appropriate to add to this narrative. As G-d was admonishing the people not to become involved in the idolatrous ways of the nations He would drive out ahead of them, He is including a prohibition against the pagan practice of boiling a young goat in its mother’s milk. This was also the opinion of Maimonides who proposed that G-d was in essence saying that when the men made the pilgrimage journeys to go before the L-rd, they were not to cook the way they may have previously done. Furthermore, this provides an example G-d’s compassion for His creation. It is a compassionate behavior not to boil a young animal in its mother’s milk. Many of the Jewish Sages and commentators use this verse to support the practice of not mixing meat with milk. They maintain that “hybridizing” anything such as types of cloth or even considering Yahshua a “G-d-Man” which they feel is the reason Christianity separated from Judaism, a “downgrading” of the original item or person.
The Song of Songs
It is also appropriate to read the Song of Songs during the intermediate Shabbat of Pesach. Rabbinic tradition interprets the book as a love song, where the “beloved” is taken to mean G-d, and the “bride” to mean the congregation of Israel. In Messianic Judaism, we know Israel as the bride refers to all true believers; spiritual Israel. The Jewish tradition made the Song of Songs especially appropriate to Pesach, because it marked, as it were, the beginning of the courtship of Israel and G-d before, metaphorically speaking, they became finally wedded at Mount Sinai by Israel’s acceptance of the Torah, the Commands being the ketubah, the marriage contract. The Song of Songs also represents a new beginning, consistent with G-d’s delivering Israel from Egypt.
The Song of Solomon, called in the Vulgate and Septuagint, “The Song of Songs,” from the opening words. This title denotes its superior excellence, according to the Hebrew idiom; so holy of holies, equivalent to “most holy” (Ex 29:37); the heaven of heavens, equivalent to the highest heavens (De 10:14). It is one of the five volumes (megilloth) placed immediately after the Pentateuch in manuscripts of the Jewish Scriptures. It is also fourth of the Hagiographa (Cetubim/Ketuvim, writings) or the third division of the Old Testament, the other two being the Law and the Prophets.
Jews forbade it to be read by any until he was thirty years old. It certainly needs a degree of spiritual maturity to enter aright into the holy mystery of love which it allegorically sets forth. To such as have attained this maturity, of whatever age they be, the Song of Songs is one of the most edifying of the sacred writings
The Christian fathers, Origen and Theodoret, compared the teachings of Solomon to a ladder with three steps; Ecclesiastes, natural (the nature of sensible things, vain); Proverbs, moral; Canticles, mystical (figuring the union of “Christ” and the “Church”). The Jews compared Proverbs to the outer court of Solomon’s temple, Ecclesiastes to the holy place, and Canticles to the holy of holies. Understood allegorically, the Song is cleared of all difficulty. “Shulamit” (So 6:13), the bride, is thus an appropriate name, Daughter of Peace being the feminine of Solomon, equivalent to the Prince of Peace. She by turns is a vinedresser, shepherdess, midnight inquirer, and prince’s consort and daughter, and He a suppliant drenched with night dews, and a king in His palace, in harmony with the various relations of Spiritual Israel and Yahshua. As Ecclesiastes sets forth the vanity of love of the creature, Canticles/Songs sets forth the fullness of the love which joins all true believers and Yahshua.
In the Zohar and the early Kabbalah the dialogue of love is between the two Sefirot, Tiferet, the male principle in the Go-head, and Malkhut, the Shekhinah, the female principle. In the opening passage of the Zohar, in current editions, the lily among the thorns is Malkhut attacked by the demonic forces but strengthened against these evil forces by the five strong leaves surrounding the lily, the other lower Sefirot.
The sixteenth-century mystic, Moses Cordovero, interprets the book as a dialogue between the individual soul and G-d. Even in an earlier period, Maimonides (Teshuvah 10:3) writes in the same vein, when discussing the love of G-d:
‘What is the proper form of the love (of G-d)? It is that he should love the L-rd with great, overpowering, fierce love to the extent that his soul is bound to the love of G-d and he dwells on it constantly, as if he were love-sick for a woman and dwells on this constantly, whether he is sitting or standing, eating or drinking.’
‘Even more than this should be the love of G-d in the heart of those who love him, dwelling on it constantly, as it is said: “with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (Deuteronomy 6:5). And it is to this that Solomon refers allegorically when he says: “For I am love-sick” (Song of Songs 2:5) and the whole of Song of Songs is a parable on this topic.’ I agree with this perspective as it is supported in other scripture including many of the Psalms; Psalms 1:2-3; 4:7-9; 5:8; Chap 19; Chap. 25; Chap. 40; Chap.42; 63:1-7; Chap. 84:1-4 and many others throughout the Torah.
I will end this service with a prayer taken from various Psalms that reflect the heartfelt desire of a true believer:
Psalms 42:2 J “Just as a deer longs for running streams, G-d, I long for you. I am thirsty for G-d, for the living G-d! Psalm” 139:23-4: “Examine me, G-d, and know my heart; test me, and know my thoughts. See if there is in me any hurtful way, and lead me along the eternal way. Psalms 119:33-34: “Teach me, Adonai, the way of your Laws; keeping them will be its own reward for me. Give me understanding; then I will keep your Torah; I will observe it with all my heart. Guide me on the path of your mitzvoth, for I take pleasure in it. Bend my heart toward your instructions and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; with your ways, give me life. Fulfill your promise, which you made to your servant, which you made to those who fear you.”
Rabbi Tamah Davis