Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Holy Week - Passover

Note: In Christian circles, the week prior to Easter is sometimes called Holy Week or Passion Week. It marks the week in time in which Christians believe Jesus of Nazareth entered into Jerusalem, was executed by crucifixion, and was resurrected from the grave. In honor of this important time in the hearts of Christians everywhere, this week's stamp entries have a direct correlation to that week approximately 2000 years ago.

As a Jewish man, Jesus of Nazareth was obligated to observe Jewish traditions as part of his heritage, and to a Jewish person, there was no greater tradition than the celebration of Passover (also called Pesach). The story of Passover is the fundamental story of the birth of the Jewish nation.

The story of the Jewish people, also called Hebrews or the Hebrew children, is contained in the Old Testament. From the creation of Man through the life and times of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), the story of the people is contained in the first book of the Bible, Genesis.

Starting with the second book of the Bible, Exodus, the Jewish people have been enslaved by Egyptians. They were forced to labor under the Pharaohs of Egypt. From the midst of this captivity, there arose a man of God who was to lead his people out of slavery and into freedom. That man was Moses.

The early life story of Moses is one of rags to riches and back to rags. He was born to an enslaved Jewish woman who hid him in a basket and placed him in the Nile River, so that one of Pharaoh's daughters would find him and claim him for her own. Raised as a member of the royal family, he quickly rose to prominence. One day, spying an Egyptian mistreating a Hebrew, and knowing the he, himself, was really Hebrew, he flew into a murderous rage, killing the Egyptian. When word of this deed reached the Pharaoh, Moses fled Egypt for the surrounding countryside.

While away from Egypt, God instructed Moses to return to Egypt and free his people from their enslavement. God empowered Moses to do a series of punishing acts, called plagues, to convince Pharaoh to release the Hebrews. After the first nine plagues failed to convince Pharaoh to release the captives, God ordained the tenth, and ultimately final, plague.

God told Moses that all firstborn male children in the land would die on a specific night. The only children that would be spared would be those in houses where the Angel of Death would pass over the residences. God instructed Moses to have each Hebrew family to sacrifice an unblemished, perfect lamb and to spread the blood from the sacrifice around the door frame. When the sign was noticed, the angel would skip that residence (i.e., passover) and leave the firstborn child within alive. As a result, the Hebrews followed God's directive, while the Egyptians, who were unaware of the seriousness of the plague, did not.

After that night of widespread death to the Egyptian firstborn male children, Pharaoh released the Hebrews from their enslavement and let them pass out of the land. This passage out of the land of Egypt is called the Exodus. The Hebrews were free.

In order that the Hebrews would not forget their sojourn in Egypt, God told Moses to instruct his people to always celebrate the Passover. Along with the feast for that night, they were to celebrate the Feast of the Unleavened Bread for seven days.

It was for the celebration of Passover that Jesus traveled to Jerusalem during his final week of life. He entered into the city with his Jewish followers in order to observe the Passover. Later in the week, he would be crucified on a hill just outside the city.

Israel commemorated the Passover with the 3-stamp set of stamps shown here with tabs attached. The stamps were issued in 1972 and were assigned Scott numbers 484-486. The first stamp, denominated 0.18 pound, or 18 agorot (18a), depicts the Exodus out of Egypt. The second stamp which shows the baking of unleavened bread is denominated at 45a. The last stamp in the set represents the Passover meal and is denominated as 95 agorot.

This set of stamps should be easy to find. It is a very low-cost set of stamps. Be sure to collect it with the tabs, as the tabs are highly prized by collectors.

Previous Holy Week Entries:

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