Interview: Steve Herzig — The Significance of Passover
In Exodus 12 we find the story of the Passover. We see the Israelites in bondage and although Pharaoh was given many chances to let them go, he refused. Because of this, God said all of Egypt’s first born—humans and animals would die. But through the blood of a lamb over the doorpost, the Israelites would be saved. Then God commanded the Jewish people to remember. And to this day, every spring, Passover is celebrated. It is a time of remembrance and a time to celebrate family.
We invited Steve Herzig, our North American Ministries director into the studio to talk all things Passover. Steve shares the history of Passover, his personal childhood memories growing up in an orthodox Jewish home, but most importantly he shares how the Messiah is in the Passover! We say it often on the program that our Christian faith is because of a Jewish Messiah who celebrated Jewish holidays. And because of this, we should not be surprised that we can see shadows of the Messiah throughout the Old Testament. We pray you are encouraged and your faith is strengthened with Steve’s powerful words today.
To learn more about Passover from Steve and other Friends of Israel workers, download our Spring 2019 Canadian Communiqué
If you are interested in booking a Passover presentation, please go to foi.org/passover2020.
Steve Herzig: I came to know the Lord through the ministry, the Friends of Israel and the man that first discipled me, I attended one of his Passovers at a church. And I thought, "Oh, I know what he's going to do. I've done Passovers all the time." And Chris, my jaw dropped as he demonstrated the Passover, I knew the Jewish part. But I had no idea the connection it had to Christianity and to Christ in the Passover.
Steve Conover: Exodus 12 says, “I will pass through the land of Egypt in the same night and I will attack all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both of humans and animals. And on all the Gods of Egypt, I will execute judgment. I am the Lord. The blood will be assigned for you on the houses where you are, so that when I see the blood I will pass over you and this plague will not fall on you to destroy you when I attack the land of Egypt." This is the Friends of Israel Today, I'm Steve Conover.
Chris Katulka: And I'm Chris Katulka. And folks, we would not be reading that passage unless Passover is upon us. Did you hear that? The Lord said, He will pass over the Israelites, those who put the blood of the Lamb on the doorpost and the lentils of their homes, God will pass over them, Pesach in Hebrew. When God's judgment falls on the Egyptians, the Israelites will be spared. Why? Because of their faith, and trusting what God promised them. God then commanded that the Israelites make Passover a holiday to remember. To remember what he did for them when he freed them from the bondage of Egypt. Because of that one passage for thousands of years Jewish people have been celebrating this amazing holiday. Today on the program, Our North American Ministries director Steve Herzig will join me to talk about the significance of Passover and what it was like growing up as an orthodox Jew celebrating this important holiday.
Chris Katulka: Steve, welcome to the program.
Steve Herzig: Chris, great to be here.
Chris Katulka: You are the perfect person because today we're talking Passover, the Passover season is upon us. And I know that you have a long history with the Passover celebration. We're going to talk about that in a little bit. But Passover, I kind of see Passover in two different ways. First is the historical account of Passover that we see from Exodus chapter 12 when God freed the Israelites through judging the Egyptians, the 10 plagues. But there is also an element of, today we still celebrate Passover because God told them to make it a memorial. So we're going to divide this up. First, let's look at the historical account, and then let's look at why we celebrate Passover today. So what was the point of the original Passover?
Steve Herzig: Well, Chris, thanks for letting me come, first of all, and I'm not the perfect one, as you started off, although I appreciate the compliment. But I understand your thoughts concerning that, that my background in Judaism at least gives me some insight. All I could say concerning the Passover and its impact is you have the invisible God against the multi visible false gods of Egypt. In 400 years of bondage, God raises up Moses, the deliverer who has his own issues. He had a midlife crisis, he's 40 years in the desert. Now he's coming back and he knows that he's called by God, and he has to say, “Let my people go.” And that whole process was as much for Egypt as it was for Israel and for Moses. And so each of these times he comes with the king says, Pharaoh says no, he's not going to do it. He makes it harder, things look pretty bleak, but every single time Moses comes, the invisible God defeats the visible false gods of Egypt. Ultimately the 10th one where the pharaoh's son dies, they regarded as God.
And so you have this people observing Moses and they're frustrated, they're upset at him as much as they are at pharaoh. It's a whole inner turmoil going on. The story of Passover is going to be used redemption theme throughout the text. I'm talking from Genesis ... from Exodus excuse me, all the way through there is this redemptive idea, and it's centered in on the Jewish people. So yes, this is a historical thing. It really happened. Moses was a human being, we love him. In my family, Moses, we had a big plaque of Moses on our living room wall that I saw, bringing down the law of God. He's a biggie.
Chris Katulka: He's a big figure.
Steve Herzig: But if you read the text, you find he's very human.
Chris Katulka: Yes.
Steve Herzig: Very human.
Chris Katulka: And the idea of Passover itself which comes directly from Exodus chapter 12, is that God says, “I will pass over you if you complete the tasks that I tell you”, which is to take the blood put it on the doorpost and lintel which by faith they had to do. God ultimately said, “I will pass over you in this judgment.” Is that right?
Steve Herzig: Absolutely. The blood of the lamb. In Judaism, we don't center in on the blood of the lamb. We talk about it but we don't hone into it. We talk about redemption, we celebrate the holidays, we're reminded of the plagues, and we dip and we have four cups of wine. We do all these different things. But the least focus seems to be the blood of the lamb, which is, "I will pass over you."
Chris Katulka: That's right.
Chris Katulka: Now, there's the historical part. But in that same chapter in chapter 12, God almost in the middle of the chapter seems to say, “Hey, this isn't just something you're going to do once. When you come out of the land of Egypt, when I free you, I want you to remember this day annually, continually make it a memorial”, is what God says. Can you talk a little bit about, why would God demand that the people make it a memorial to remember it annually?
Steve Herzig: Because he knows we have short memories. That's why.
Chris Katulka: It's that simple.
Steve Herzig: It's that simple. “Remember”, you use that word in your question and mean it a few different ways. “Remember, remember”. Chris, there are all kinds of jokes about husbands forgetting their anniversary. There's situations in our life when we forget names. We forget situations, we forget so many things. And as soon as somebody brings it, “Oh, yeah”, then it all comes back. And so God knows our memories, and he is driving home the fact that there was the blood of the Lamb. It was the one that broke Pharaoh's back, in a sense, redeemed our people and every year we are to remember that. Remember my redeeming hand, remember what Moses did, remember you were slaves and now you're redeemed. You're set free. That is such a huge theme for myself growing up, Jewish people today. Passover is huge.
You've been to Israel Chris and you know that even Jewish people in Israel, Israelis who are Jewish, they are not religious. But Passover is a huge deal for them.
Chris Katulka: It is. And one of my favorite stories actually is a tour guide that we love to use in Israel. His name is Tito. The church I was going to in Texas several years ago invited him and his family. They paid for him and his family to fly from Israel to Dallas to be with the church and to engage. The pastor just fell in love with this tour guide Tito. And so when he arrives in America and comes to the host family's house, the host family hands Tito an Israeli Jew a box of matzah.
Steve Herzig: Oh. Thanks a lot. That's so nice of you.
Chris Katulka: They looked at her like, what in the world? What's this for? But this raises something interesting, the idea of remembering because you mentioned that this theme of redemption is something that appears all throughout the Bible. And I find it interesting when I read through the Old Testament, oftentimes God when Israel does begin to go astray and follow false gods and leave God, God actually almost cries out to them and says, “Don't you remember me? I'm the God.” And he goes back to that original Passover. “I'm the God who freed you from the bondage of Egypt and you walked through on dry ground, don't you remember me?” So I think that is such an important part, not only for Israel's need to remember but our need to remember as well.
Steve Herzig: Oh, Chris, you just hit on what I think is so important as Christians, our memory is short. We have a redemptive story and the idea of Passover for the Jewish people, every year they know it's coming. My mom used to pack two pieces of matzah, put kosher salami in between the matzah. And of course, by the time I got to school, it was all crumbly. But those eight days of eating nothing but matzah, and torturous. So I can imagine Tito's face when he saw the matzah. But the point-
Chris Katulka: It's not something they eat all the time.
Steve Herzig: No, no, but it's our identity. And it drives us back to the story. So you won't find many Jewish people who, even those who are not religious, who don't understand the idea of what Passover is. And so, remembering is so, so important. As believers, it's important to remember.
Chris Katulka: I want to go to you though. You talked a little bit about what your mom would do for you during Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. But what was it like growing up in an orthodox Jewish family and embracing Passover? Tell us about what ... what would it look like on an annual basis?
Steve Herzig: Well, I remember as a five year old going downtown Cleveland, my grandmother would pick out a live chicken, live. Pick it out, put a finger through the cage. They'd slay the chicken, she'd bring it back, course it'd be butchered. She put the feet into the ... so we'd have matzo ball soup, chicken soup. The feet, the cartilage melting in the broth. It's a vivid memory. And by the way, the best chicken soup I've ever had in my life. And so the idea of Passover is a Seder service. And because of my background Seder services lasted five hours. That's an orthodox Passover.
Chris Katulka: That's correct.
Steve Herzig: So what do you do for five hours? When my grandmother and grandfather were alive, the grandkids, my cousins and myself, we sat at the end of the table and my cousins were older than me, and they used to throw spit balls and they would make sure my grandfather couldn't see it. Just to irritate us because we were younger and getting in trouble. But then there were things that happened at the Seder that involved the children.
Whenever I do a Passover at a church or something like that, and there's kids making noise or somebody spills the grape juice, that's what's supposed to happen. It's part of the family. Remember, they were in a place that God passed over. And so when I see them, they had to be in their place. They were eating the lamb. There are people dying all around them, but they were in their house safe and secure. And so you sit there go through the whole story, and we're safe, and we're family, and we do all the things families do. And so kids making noise, spilling things, is part of the whole shtick.
Chris Katulka: It's part of the whole thing. Now, for our listeners, actually, it's really exciting. We actually have Steve's story of growing up and being a part of a Jewish household an Orthodox Jewish household in the Passover season. We have it written out for you a testimony, a great picture too I hear of you when you were younger. If you're interested, you can go to foiradio.org to get that and when we come back from our break, we're going to focus on what is commonly known as the Lord's Supper, and we're going to link that right to Passover. So be sure to stick around my friends.
Steve Conover: I want to share with you an important book from the Friends of Israel collection, The Feasts of Israel, Shadows of the Messiah by Bruce Scott. You've probably heard Chris say before context is everything, especially when you study the Bible. And it's always good to remember the Bible is a Jewish book with writers writing from a Jewish worldview. Jesus was the Jewish Messiah and he celebrated Jewish festivals like Passover, Hanukkah, and Purim. The ministry of Jesus, the cross, the resurrection, His second coming, and His future reign as king and Lord are not only in the New Testament, they are also hidden within the Jewish holidays and feasts of the Old Testament. The book, The Feasts of Israel, Shadows of the Messiah by Bruce Scott will help you see the fullness of Jesus through the biblical feasts of Israel. You can order your copy today at foiradio.org. That's foiradio.org, or call our toll free number at 888-343-6940. That's 888-343-6940.
Chris Katulka: Welcome back, we are talking with Steve Herzig. He is the North American Ministries director here at the Friends of Israel and Steve, we're talking about Passover, what it means. Before we get to how it connects to Communion and the Lord's Supper, when you were growing up, you did Passover as an unbeliever. But I think it's in your 20s that you came to faith in Jesus as the Messiah. How did the Passover change for you when you came to faith?
Steve Herzig: Oh, Chris, that's a great story. I actually came to know the Lord through the ministry, the Friends of Israel and the man that first discipled me, I attended one of his Passovers at a church. And I thought, “Oh, I know what he's going to do. I've done Passover all the time.” And Chris, my jaw dropped as he demonstrated the Passover. I knew the Jewish part, but I had no idea that connection it had to Christianity and to Christ in the Passover and element after element as he was holding it up, my jaw dropped lower and lower. My eyes bugged out. I had no clue. And from that very time, every single time I do a Passover at a church, I think of that like I'm speaking to me for the first time.
And people come up. I know it's happened to you, as you've done many Passovers and people, I never saw the connection before. I'd say folks, communion was not a Christian invention. Jesus celebrated the Passover and unless you make that connection, and I was able to do that through the ministry of the Friends of Israel, all the way back in 1976, I got saved in 75. So I saw my first one in 1976. It really is a life change in your perspective of your walk with Christ.
Chris Katulka: And so you saw things differently when you as a Jewish person who came to faith, you saw things differently when you came into that Passover.
Steve Herzig: Absolutely.
Chris Katulka: That's amazing. Let's talk about Communion, the Lord's Supper and Passover in the remaining time that we have here. What's the connection between Passover and the Lord's Supper for our listeners who do this all the time?
Steve Herzig: Passover was a one time event. That is there was a lamb. They were to get the lamb, the 10th plague when God sees the blood He'll pass over. They were saved as a result of that one time act, but yet they were to remember what God did back there. He redeemed them and placed them out of slavery, ultimately under Joshua several years later, but ultimately into the promised land. And there's a thing in the Seder, where we're to go around looking for hametz, which is symbolic of sin, leaven. And we're to check the whole house to make sure that it's cleansed of sin. Paul in the New Testament says to believers, "Examine yourself, examine yourself. Go through your temple of the Holy Spirit. Is there any sin?" And in Passover, you're supposed to take a feather, put it in a dustpan and throw it out of the house. And before we take Communion, the idea is, we're to remember. Is there any sin in your life? Take that sin, put it in a little container and throw it out of your life as you begin to remember.
It's a one time event. Christ died once and for all, but we're to remember what he's done. And in essence, when we think about Communion, we can think about Passover and say, “Yeah, here's where I was, I was lost. I was dead in my trespasses and sins, and God redeemed me, took me out of the marketplace of sin and set me free. I'm in the promised land I'm in ...” And he made it all possible.
Chris Katulka: There's the direct correlation, the idea of the Israelites were in the bondage of Egypt, and God redeemed them and set them free. And in the same way, there's almost like a new Exodus that takes place. We were once, well, we were bound to sin, we were apart from God and in Christ, our Passover Lamb, as Paul says, we've been set free. We've been redeemed, we are new. And I love that connection. We're in the promised land with Jesus the Messiah. That’s a great connection.
Steve Herzig: Amen brother!
Chris Katulka: Well listen, maybe some of you are out there and you're driving around or maybe you're sitting by the radio and you're thinking, “I've never done a Passover before. I'd love to do a Passover.” Well, we want to encourage you to go to foi.org/passover2020. Foi.org/passover2020. If you go there, and you send us a message here at Friends of Israel, we will make sure that we can help plan a Passover Seder for you and your family or for you and your small group or Sunday school or even for you and your church to give you a presentation, a demonstration, whatever you'd like to connect you and your church or your fellow believers with what happened in the past and the Passover and connect it right to your very life today. So Steve, would you encourage people if they've never done a Passover to do one?
Steve Herzig: Absolutely.
Chris Katulka: Honestly and I know for you growing up in a Jewish household and seeing it, it probably meant one thing but when I did it my first time, it was eye opening for me as well and I think it will be eye opening for you. That's foi.org/passover2020. Steve, thank you so much for coming and enlightening us.
Steve Herzig: Thanks, Chris.
Steve Conover: Now, Apples of Gold. A dramatic reading from the life and ministry of holocaust survivor, Zvi Kalisher.
Mike Kellogg: Every year, my home is completely full on Passover evening. Before the readings, I gave a short testimony about the meaning of Passover. My children played music and everyone sang. The feast lasted until 1:00 a.m. and many of our neighbors after hearing the music and singing, stood outside listening also. The unbelievers thought they were going to see and hear things completely different from their own celebration. But they were surprised to learn we believe in the same God and what's more, we follow the real Passover Lamb, Jesus. Leviticus 17:11 clearly depicts the atonement. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood. And I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls.” The only difference between their feast and mine was that I put meaning into it, emphasizing the pesach lamb, which is the real atonement.
I read from the Bible and told them our celebration is all about that Lamb. This was very hard for them to understand. I read to them only for the Old Testament such as Job 19:25, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and he shall stand at last on the earth.” This was the first time they'd heard about the resurrection. Then someone asked the age old question, “How can we know this when no one has ever come back from the grave?” I replied, “The Lord rose from the grave. “No” the questioner said. “We don't want to hear that example. We want to hear from the Bible, but not from the New Testament.” So I quoted the prophet Daniel who wrote, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake. Some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. You can have the Lord's mercy, you're going to have real atonement through His death and resurrection.”
They did not understand how God could be born, die and come again. I told them the Bible speaks of all these things, Michael 5:2 and Isaiah 9:6 foretold his birth. Isaiah 53 foretold is suffering. Zachariah 12:10 foretold his death. King David prophesied of his resurrection in Psalm 16:10, and Daniel 7:13 predicts His second coming. I showed them all of these things without once opening the New Testament. Because God has given us a very clear picture of the Lord, our Savior, and our Passover in the Old Testament. I then told my visitors, “You can see the way we have celebrated the Passover today. It's not taken from our imaginations, but from the Holy Bible, the same Bible you read. The Lord had promised he will come again, and he has told us to watch and pray so we will be ready for His coming.”
At the end of the evening, some of my guests changed their minds about me. We all sang together the popular song of the Passover taken from Psalm 118. It was truly a blessed Passover feast.
Steve Conover: Thanks for joining us today. We heard Chris and Steve Herzig talk about how Friends of Israel would love to come to your church, small group or Sunday school to present a Passover demonstration. Chris, you've done many of these and have told me that leading Passover is for Christians is the highlight of your ministry. How can people get in touch with us to learn more or to schedule a demonstration?
Chris Katulka: Steve, there are sometimes, I'm scheduled between eight and 10 times a year during the spring period to do a Passover. These are so popular. I really think it's great that Christians love to connect with the Passover because really, it's Christ who's in the Passover. So we connect Christians with the history of the Passover, but we show Jesus the Messiah, the Lamb of God in the Passover as well. And so I want to encourage our listeners, if this interests you for your church or small group or even your youth group, whatever it might be, go to foi.org/passover2020. Again, that's foi.org/passover2020 and there you can begin to schedule a Friends of Israel representative to come to your church or youth group or small group to lead a Passover for next year.
Steve Conover: Thank you, Chris. We do hope that those of you who are interested in having Friends of Israel come to your church to do one of these presentations, that you'll contact us. Chris Katulka is our host and teacher. Tom Gallione produced today's program, it was co written by Sarah Fern, Apples of Gold was voiced by Mike Kellogg. Jeremy Strong composed our theme and I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are worldwide Christian ministry communicating biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while fostering solidarity with the Jewish people.
The Feasts of Israel: Seasons of the Messiah
By Bruce Scott
The ministry of Jesus: the cross, the Resurrection, His Second Coming, and His future reign as King and Lord are not only in the New Testament, they are also hidden within the Jewish holidays and feasts of the Old Testament.
The book The Feasts of Israel: Shadows of the Messiah will help you see the fullness of Jesus through the Biblical feasts of Israel.
Apples of Gold: The Pesach Lamb
Every year the Kalisher home was completely full the first evening of Passover. Before the readings, Zvi would talk about the meaning of the holiday and his children played music as everyone would sing. Some in the group were not believers in Jesus and they were skeptical as Zvi followed the tradition of the Seder meal. Hear how Zvi was able to share about the Messiah in their Scriptures, the Old Testament.
Zvi’s story is available in Elwood McQuaid’s book, “Zvi: The Miraculous Story of Triumph over the Holocaust,” available at our online store.
More stories from Zvi are also available in his book, “The Best of Zvi,” available at our online store.
The Friends of Israel Today and Apples of Gold theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.