Haftarah: Second Day Pesach: A Pesach of Covenant
II Kings 23:1-9, 21-25: “Before him there had never been a king who returned to God with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his resources, according to the entire Torah of Moshe, and after him, no one arose like him.” This is a story of Pesach as a tale of the Shema; “with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his resources,” and Yom Kippur, “who returned to God.”
I’m not happy when people observe Yom Kippur only as a serious day of trembling without the joy that comes with atonement, purity, and deep connection to God. I’m even unhappier when people treat Pesach as another one of those Yom Kippurs; not as a day of rejoicing in freedom and singing Hallel, but obsessing over the laws to the point that they are only happy with added strictures, terrified of making the slightest mistake. Our story, that of Yoshiyahu’s Pesach of Shema, Teshuva, and Covenant, is the real story of Pesach: “For such a Pesach Offering had not been offered since the days of the Judges who judged Israel, and all the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah (Verse 22).” This Pesach was greater than King David’s, Solomon’s, Yehoshafat, and Chizkiyahu! What made it so special?
The young king, raised in a house of idol worshippers, understood that God’s House could not remain in disrepair. He ordered a remodeling, and during the process something rare was discovered; a Sefer Torah. It was the Torah written by Moshe. They opened the scroll and read Ki Tavo, describing the consequences of violating God’s covenant by serving Him without joy. Yoshiyahu revered the Torah as The Book of Covenant; the Book to which we said at Sinai, “We will do, and we will relate.” “Relate,” as in “Nishmah,” of Shema!
Yoshiyahu, “Stood on the platform and sealed a covenant before God: to follow God and to observe His commandments, His testimonies, and His decrees (Hints of the Wise Child) with a complete heart and a complete soul, to establish the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And the entire people accepted the covenant (Verse 3).”
Yoshiyahu began this Pesach with a Covenant of Relationship, just as did the Children of Israel begin their Pesach with the Covenant of Milah.
It was only after the people sealed their Covenant of Relationship with God that they began their Pesach cleaning: “The king instructed Hilkiyahu the Kohen Gadol, the Kohanim of the second rank, and the gate keepers to remove from the Temple of God all the vessels that had been made for the Baal, the Asheirah, and all the heavenly hosts (Verse 4).” He Pesach cleaned all of Israel, “He brought all the Kohanim from the cities of Judah and he defiled the high places where the priests used to burn offerings (Verse 8).”
After the Covenant, and the Pesach cleaning of all that would interfere with the relationship he, “Commanded the entire nation, saying, ‘Bring the Pesach Offering to God, your Lord (Verse 21).”
This was a “whole” Pesach, “you shall not break a bone in it (Exodus 12:46),” as the original Pesach. It was an expression of Covenant, Relationship, Cleansing ( as in, “You shall nullify the leaven from your homes [12:15]), and Holy Convocation (as in, “On the first day shall be a holy convocation [12:16]). They returned to that first Pesach; Teshuvah, and celebrated a Pesach of the Freedom of Relationship.
This was Yoshiyahu’s Pesach, and this can be ours as well.