And I shall take you out from the nations, and gather you from the lands into which you were scattered, with a strong hand and an outstretched arm and with outpoured fury. And I will bring you to the ‘Wilderness of the Nations’ and I will wrangle with you there, face to face. As I wrangled with your fathers in the Wilderness of the land of Egypt so I will wrangle with you—the words of my Lord Hashem/Elokim—and I will make you pass under the rod, and bring you into the bond of the covenant, and separate from among you those who rebel and those who transgress against Me; from the land of their sojourning will I take them out but to the soil of Israel none shall come. Then shall you know that I am Hashem. —Yechezkel 20:34–38.
Tonight is the Noahide festival of Passunder. The festive meal contains meat and dairy, food such as chicken-fried steak with cream gravy, barbecued ribs washed down with a glass of milk, lamb chops with asparagus topped with hollandaise sauce, beef tacos smothered with shredded cheese, and for the truly daring—bacon-wrapped shrimp. There are no special prayers, no special plate settings, and no special ceremonies other than having your youngest son (or daughter) ask: Why is tonight just the same as all other nights?
To answer that question, we start with the quote from the Book of Yechezkel above, a quote which is from the chapter which the haftoroth from the parsha Kedoshim [Vayikra chpaters 19&20] which will be read in Jewish synagogues in a few weeks. Take a few minutes to read Chapter Twenty of Yechezkel (Ezekiel) to understand the context of the quote.
As you can see, the chapter deals with how Israel rebelled against Hashem in the Wilderness of Sinai. The extent of the rebellion I will not go into here, but there are a few relevant points I would like to make.
In the Parshat Bo, in Shemos 12:38, it says: Also a mixed multitude went up with them. Rashi describes these people as Umot shel gerim, a mixture of “nations and sojourners.” There has been a lot of noise recently about how these “gerrings” were with Israel during the Exodus. Here’s what Rabbi Elie Munk had to say about this verse:
“This was a mixture from other peoples who had converted (Rashi)…unfortunately, the confidence Moses had in the mixed multitude was misplaced and was to become a source of bitter disappointment. The new converts instigated several of the dissident movements unleashed in the camp of Israel during their trek through the Wilderness [now re-read Yechzekel 20]. Our Sages point to these defectors as a lesson to all future spiritual leaders…”
So, according to the Sages, it was this “mixed multitude” of gerrings that caused many of the problems in the Wilderness. R’ Munk later points out (in his commentary to Shemos 32:7; “HaShem spoke to Moses: ‘Go, descend—for your people that you brought up from Egypt have become corrupt’”) that it was “your people, a reference to the mixed multitude.” This is the true legacy of the gerring Jewish-wannabes, that they are a continuing problem for Israel.
As far as the gerrings being the “4th house” of Israel, that idea is dismissed by Shemos 12:43–45;
“HaShem said to Moses and Aaron, ‘This is the decree of the pesach-offering: no alienated person may eat from it. Every slave of a man, who was bought for money, you shall circumcise him; then he may eat of it. A sojourner [toshav] and a hired laborer may not eat it.’”
R’ Munk commented on this verse, saying: “Every foreigner, without undergoing conversion to Judaism, has the right to a home and to basic civil rights [in Eretz Yisrael], provided he renounce idolatry and resolve to observe the basic duties of humanity defined in the seven Noahide laws. Nevertheless, he is still forbidden to participate in the pesach-offering.” Of course, today’s toshav-gerrings seem to have it backwards; they ignore the basic duties of the Noahide Law, and instead want to participate in Pesach.
Of course, the desire of the gerrings to want to “serve” HaShem by doing mitzvot they have not been commanded reminds me of two others who got into a bit of hot water during Israel’s trek through the Wilderness. We see that in Bamidbar 3:4; where “Nadab and Abihu died before Hashem when they offered alien fire before Hashem in the Wilderness of Sinai.”
As Rav S. R. Hirsch commented on Vayikra 10:2, “It is an even more solemn warning against allowing personal whims to determine our ‘cultic’ relationship to God…this is only one of the points where Judaism and paganism come to a sharp parting of the ways. The pagan sees his sacrifice as an attempt to make his deity subservient to his will. In Judaism, by contrast, the offering expresses the idea that the one who brings the offering seeks to place himself in the service of God.” This is indeed the fatal flaw in the gerring’s logic. They want HaShem to bless them and make their lives easier. They are not interested in placing themselves in the service of HaShem and observing the Seven Laws.
And so, my friends, we come to the festival of Passunder. It is a solemn day where we, as Noahides, dedicate our lives to the observance of God’s commandments to the non-Jew by showing that we, unlike the mixed multitude, will faithfully carry out those laws which HaShem has seen fit for us to keep, and that for the Noahide, who has not been commanded to keep Shabbat or Pesach, tonight is a night just like every other night.