Haftorah This Week
Welcome to Haftorah This Week, the place where you will find thoughts and
reflections by CLAL faculty and associates on this week's Haftorah.
(Joshua 5:2-6:1, 27)
The Haftarah for
the first day of Pesach describes the preparation for the conquest of the Land of
Israel under Joshua's leadership. In a most powerful way, this Haftarah makes clear
that the Exodus from Egypt is truly complete only when the Jews inherit the land promised
to Abraham. As the Jews complete their crossing of the Jordan into the Holy Land, God says
to Joshua, "This day I have rolled the reproach of Egypt from you." Only when
the conquest of the land is imminent can the liberation be complete. This time, the Passover
is held after the splitting and crossing of the waters, as if to bracket the Exodus
process and to emphasize the continuity between leaving Egypt and entering the Land of
raised up the children in their stead; them did he circumcise, for they were
uncircumcised, for they had not been circumcised by the way." As part of their
preparation for the conquest, the new generation of Jews, those born in the desert, were
circumcised before participating in the Passover ritual. Why did they wait until
now to be circumcised? Why were they not circumcised during the forty years in the desert?
Just before the exodus
from Egypt and the first Passover Seder, the Jewish men were circumcised. The
circumcision served as an expression of their loyalty to the Jewish people and of their
commitment to Jewish destiny. It also served as a link between the Exodus and the promise
God made to Abraham centuries before that his people would be redeemed from oppression. In
the Book of Joshua, the Jews experience the fulfillment of the other half of God's promise
to Abraham, that the Jewish people would return to inherit the land of Canaan. To mark the
connection between the Jews' conquest of the Land and the fulfillment of the promise,
circumcision is postponed until the Jews are ready to cross over into the Land. So, too,
the Passover Seder is held on the eve of their invasion in order to underscore the
fact that the Exodus was not just freedom from, but also freedom to.
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