Haftarah First Day Pesach: Transition
Joshua 3:5-5, 5:2-15, 6:1, 27: In an unusual Haftarah that jumps from one story to another and then again to a third, we join Joshua as he experiences the tumultuous waves of change as he rises to his new role as leader of Israel. The freshly minted leader and his people live experience a Pesach as momentous as the first, in order to prepare them for this new stage in the development of the nation.
The nation broke camp. The twelve tribes, the Kohanim, Leviim and the Mishkan, packed up and moved to the Jordan River, and then, they stopped. On this side of the Jordan they were still the nation of Moses. When they would step out on the opposite side, they would be the people of Joshua. “This day I will inaugurate your greatness in the sight of all Israel that they may know that as I was with Moshe, so I will be with you.” (3:7)
Just as the original Pesach marked the transition from slavery to freedom, this Pesach would signal the shift from Moshe to Joshua, from the Desert wanderers to the Conquerors of Canaan, from Manna to regular food, and from the children of those who experienced the first Pesach to the generation that would have their own remarkable Pesach experience. Just as the first Pesach Offering was the beginning of a journey, “So shall you eat it; your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and you staff in your hand”, (Exodus 12:11) the Haftarah was compiled to read as the beginning of the journey into Israel.
This first Pesach in Israel was the renewal of the covenant of Brit Milah – Circumcision – much as was the original Pesach. In fact, it is described as the completion of the first Pesach: “And God said to Joshua, ‘ Today I have removed the reproach of Egypt from upon you.’” The original journey was cut short, before the new nation could enter Israel. The nation now stood in Israel. God had fulfilled His promise to Avraham. The covenant had entered a new stage.
Just as angels were a powerful presence during the original Pesach in Egypt, so too, in this Pesach, an angel appears to Joshua, and recreates Moshe’s first meeting with God at the Burning Bush: “Remove your shoe from your foot, for the place upon which you stand is holy.” (Joshua 5:15)
Just as the first Pesach empowered Israel for all that would follow, so too, this Pesach empowered the people to achieve greatness and to conquer Israel. “Jericho had closed its gates and was barred before the Children of Israel; no one could leave or enter.” ((Joshua 6: 1)
God raised Moshe to great heights for the Exodus; “Moreover, the man, Moses, was very great in the land of Egypt, in the eyes of the servants of Pharaoh and in the eyes of the people.” (Exodus 11:3) He now raised Joshua; “And God was with Joshua, and his renown traversed the land.” (Joshua 6:27)
This Pesach, the first in Israel, recreated much of the original Pesach in order to fulfill; “In every generation a person is obligated to regard himself as if he had gone out of Egypt.”