Ritual is a Thing

Exodus 12:24, “You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever.”

The word “rite” here is likely correct, but the Hebrew word behind it is as profound as it is flexible.   The word is debar (Strongs H1697) and is most often (over 800 times) translated as “Word” as in “The Word of YHWH”.    It’s also translated hundreds of times as “thing” which means only the context of the full sentence will allude to the nature of the “thing” in question.  The profound aspect of debar is connected directly to Pesach, and to the “rite” that is being observed in Exodus 12:24.

The word debar is made up of two elements, the first of which is the Hebrew word bar (which I deep-dive into here).  Bar is the root of the word Hebrew, as well as Abraham.   The redeeming faith of “Abraham the Hebrew” is what we are striving to connect with on Pesach.  The second element of debar is the first letter dalet which is the picture of a door (as well as one of the words for “door”).   Combined, we get the impression that debar means “the entrance to becoming a Hebrew”,   That’s a bit wordy for a word that means word, but its true nevertheless.

Messiah himself said he was the Door, and on Pesach specifically can easily see the metaphor as he is the entrance to becoming a Hebrew.  Is the Debar (Word) of YHWH any less of an entrance?  In the gospel of John, he uses debar as an entrance to his book while introducing Yeshua as the entrance of all creation–and all in the same sentence.   I love John.  He gets it. 

John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Messiah elaborates on debar, connecting the it (himself) to both beginnings and to the Word of God as he explains the Parable of the Seed Sower.

Luke 8:11, “Now the parable is this: The seed is the Word of God.  The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.  And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.  And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.  As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”

Debar is such a foundational metaphor to understanding Kingdom principles, that Yeshua says this about the nature of this parabolic debarMark 4:13 “And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?”

In Exodus 12:24, the we are commanded to observe this “thing”, or this “word”, or properly in this case, this “rite”.  Lets look at the idea of a “rite” or a “ritual”.

Ritual (n) : a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.  

We know that YHWH must love a good ritual, since humans are made in His image, and we can’t avoid creating rituals.  Even in the most humanistic and faithless aspects of our culture, we are drawn to ritual.  The scientific method is also defined by “a series of actions preformed according to a prescribed order”.   Scientists even wear ceremonial garments as they preform their hocus-pocus.   As Americans we’ve drifted from our most solemn and secular national rituals, for example this long list on how to treat the American flag, but still watch in reverence when the guard changes at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, or cry when a 21 gun salute is offered.

Our days are filled with more mundane rituals from brushing our teeth, to fixing our morning coffee, to the sad pile of medications most people order their entire schedule around.  Twice Daily, a local convenience store chain, named themselves over the going-to-work-coming home-from-work ritual that is the pulse of most of the world.  If you haven’t noticed the never-ending but subtle ceremonies invented by social media companies to keep us ritually devoted to our phones, you aren’t paying close enough attention.   All sorts of negative rituals abound–ask a recovering addict to anything, it’s often the ritual that is just as hard to quit as the chemistry.  

Faithfully speaking, Christians certainly understand the importance of certain rituals, to the degree that believers have burned one another at the stake over baptism, for example.  Of course that should make you wonder if they really understand baptism it at all.  Communion is another required ritual in all Christian faith traditions, with some Catholics believing in it so strongly that the idea of transubstantiation became a thing (the idea that the bread and wine LITERALY become flesh and blood during the ritual).   

Although I think it I’ve made it clear that Yeshua’s last supper was not The Pesach (in my humble option), the context of the ritual of Christian Communion can never be divorced from the Pesach ritual as described in Exodus 12.  The “rite” described in Exodus 12:24 is meant to be the template, and any adjustments to it are a corruption of the Spirit of the original, not an enhancement or improvement.

Pesach is annual, Communion can be weekly in some denominations.

Pesach uses unleavened bread, most Communion services use leavened bread.

Pesach is a full meal, most Communion services are a teeny shot glass and a cube of bread.

Pesach you eat for yourself, as a pledge between you and YHWH.   In Catholicism the priest puts the wafer in your mouth.   Weird.  

Pesach is meant to be done in a home, with a door, at night.  Communion is typically done in a church where you immediately walk right out into broad daylight without a thought of the original Exodus, or even Messiah’s overnight struggle.

Pesach is done in haste, Passover can last for hours at most Jewish Seders.

Pesach centers around Lamb, a Jewish Passover typically just has a lamb bone.

Pesach expresses our devotion to YHWH, a Jewish Passover is more focused on the Jewishness of those around the table–even if they believe that YHWH is a myth or a monster. 

YHWH says that Pesach is a ritual, a debar, to be guarded as a statute forever.   It’s up to us to come back to this entrance with fresh eyes and renewed spirits each year.  It’s up to us to purge the leaven of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Priests, Pastors, and Church Fathers, and reorient ourselves to the Word (the debar).  That is when the Word has the best chance to take root, leading, with patience, to bearing fruit.   We can’t allow the “rite” to simply be a “series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.”   We have to engage with each element of the ritual knowing what it means and why it’s being done.   This is the way of a Hebrew that YHWH puts before us, and Pesach is the only entrance that leading to the way.   As far as rituals of faith go, practice never makes perfect, but it does make permanent.

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