Biblical Readings for Passover

The selections highlight different aspects of the holiday.

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Excerpted with permission from Every Person’s Guide to Purim (Jason Aronson, Inc).

Following is a summary of the Torah readings and Haftarah readings for the days of Passover. 

First Day

In the Torah reading (Exodus12:21-51), Moses instructs the elders of Israel in all of the laws of Passover. All generations to come are to observe the Passover traditions. In addition, the children of succeeding generations are to be instructed at Passover as to the origin and significance of the festival.

The Torah reading concludes with the last of the ten plagues: the slaying of the Egyptian firstborn. Pharaoh summons Moses and Aaron and tells them that he wants them out of Egypt as soon as possible. Moses and Aaron comply, and the children of Israel begin to make a quick exit, not allowing time for their bread to rise.

matzahThe Haftarah is taken from the Book of Joshua (Joshua 5:2-6:1, 6:27) and describes the historic Passover that the Israelites observed at Gilgal after they had crossed the Jordan River. It was the first celebration of Passover in the Holy Land. In preparation for Passover observance, all of the Israelite males were circumcised. They then ate the first matzot made from wheat in the Holy Land. [In the Reform tradition Isaiah 43:1-15 is the prophetic reading for the first day of Passover. This reading, which contains a reference to crossing the Red Sea, is a reminder of God’s role as Redeemer.]

Second Day

In the Torah reading (Leviticus 22:26-23:44), Moses instructs the Israelites in the observance of the Sabbath and festivals. The reading presents a comprehensive description of the sacred seasons of the Jewish year, including Passover, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot.

The Haftarah for the second day of Passover (II Kings 23:1-9, 21-25) was chosen because of its account of the great Passover celebrated after King Josiah’s reformation. In the 18th year of his reign (621 BCE), during the course of repairs to the Temple, a scroll of the Torah (possibly the Book of Deuteronomy) was discovered. King Josiah was so stirred by its message that he proceeded to vigorously cleanse the Temple of all idolatry. Part of the account of his reform prefaces the description of his celebration of Passover in the Haftarah, and thus its selection as the Haftarah of the second day of Passover.

The Intermediate Shabbat of Passover

(Exodus 33:12-34:26) After Israel worshipped the golden calf, Moses shattered the first set of tablets. Now Moses again ascends Mount Sinai in order to receive the new set of tablets. Moses pleads for God’s assurance of support. God reassures Moses and also reveals His 13 divine attributes. Moses then brings down a new set of tablets with the Ten Commandments.

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Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs

Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs is the spiritual leader of Temple Sholom in Bridgewater, New Jersey. He has served as the publications committee chairperson of the Rabbinical Assembly.