12 April, 2006


At sundown this evening, Jews (and some Christians) around the world will begin the celebration of Passover. This beautiful holiday is one of deep significance to both faiths, because it gives tangible reminders of God's redemption of His people.

Passover commemorates the story of the Tenth Plague, God's protection of the Hebrews in Goshen and their flight to freedom.

In Hebrew, the Holiday is called Pesach (PAY-sackh), literally "to pass over" and "to spare". When God sent the tenth plague to Egypt, it was to be the death of the firstborn son in every household. The Hebrews were instructed to paint their doors with the blood of a slain lamb. That mark of blood was the symbol of God's protection--so Death literally Passed Over those houses.

The Hebrews in Goshen were told to be ready to leave immediately, because hard-hearted Pharoah would release them in anger. So the bread they baked had no yeast--there wasn't time for it to rise. As Jews have commemorated this day for thousands of years, the Festival begins with the removal of all yeast (chametz) from the house.

The Seder
The Seder Meal is enjoyed on the first night of Pesach. It is a ritual meal, with 15 components (listed here with the aid of Tracey Rich's JewFaq) :

1. Kaddesh: Sanctification
A blessing over wine in honor of the holiday. The wine is drunk, and a second cup is poured.
2. Urechatz: Washing
A washing of the hands without a blessing, in preparation for eating the Karpas.
3. Karpas: Vegetable
A vegetable (usually parsley) is dipped in salt water and eaten. The vegetable symbolizes the lowly origins of the Jewish people; the salt water symbolizes the tears shed as a result of our slavery. Parsley is a good vegetable to use for this purpose, because when you shake off the salt water, it looks like tears.
4. Yachatz: Breaking
One of the three matzahs on the table is broken. Part is returned to the pile, the other part is set aside for the afikomen
5. Maggid: The Story
A retelling of the story of the Exodus from Egypt and the first Pesach. This begins with the youngest person asking The Four Questions, a set of questions about the proceedings designed to encourage participation in the seder.
--The maggid is designed to satisfy the needs of four different types of people: the wise one, who wants to know the technical details; the wicked one, who excludes himself (and learns the penalty for doing so); the simple one, who needs to know the basics; and the one who is unable to ask, who doesn't even know enough to know what he needs to know.
At the end of the maggid, a blessing is recited over the second cup of wine and it is drunk.
6. Rachtzah: Washing
A second washing of the hands, this time with a blessing, in preparation for eating the matzah
7. Motzi: Blessing over Grain Products
The ha-motzi blessing, a generic blessing for bread or grain products used as a meal, is recited over the matzah.
8. Matzah: Blessing over Matzah
A blessing specific to matzah is recited, and a bit of matzah is eaten.
9. Maror: Bitter Herb
A blessing is recited over a bitter vegetable (usually raw horseradish; sometimes romaine lettuce), and it is eaten. This symbolizes the bitterness of slavery. The maror is dipped charoset, a mixture of apples, nuts, cinnamon and wine, which symbolizes the mortar used by the Jews in building during their slavery.
10. Korech: The Sandwich
Rabbi Hillel was of the opinion that the maror should be eaten together with matzah and the paschal offering in a sandwich. In his honor, we eat some maror on a piece of matzah, with some charoset
11. Shulchan Orech: Dinner
A festive meal is eaten. There is no particular requirement regarding what to eat at this meal (except, of course, that chametz cannot be eaten). Among Ashkenazic Jews, gefilte fish and matzah ball soup are traditionally eaten at the beginning of the meal. Roast chicken or turkey are common as a main course, as is beef brisket.
12. Tzafun: The Afikomen
The piece of matzah set aside earlier is eaten as "desert," the last food of the meal. Different families have different traditions relating to the afikomen. Some have the children hide it, while the parents have to either find it or ransom it back. Others have the parents hide it. The idea is to keep the children awake and attentive throughout the pre-meal proceedings, waiting for this part.
13. Barech: Grace after Meals
The third cup of wine is poured, and birkat ha-mazon (grace after meals) is recited. This is similar to the grace that would be said on any Shabbat. At the end, a blessing is said over the third cup and it is drunk. The fourth cup is poured, including a cup set aside for the prophet Elijah, who is supposed to herald the Messiah, and is supposed to come on Pesach to do this. The door is opened for a while at this point (supposedly for Elijah, but historically because Jews were accused of nonsense like putting the blood of Christian babies in matzah, and we wanted to show our Christian neighbors that we weren't doing anything unseemly).
14. Hallel: Praises
Several psalms are recited. A blessing is recited over the last cup of wine and it is drunk.
15. Nirtzah: Closing
A simple statement that the seder has been completed, with a wish that next year, we may celebrate Pesach in Jerusalem (i.e., that the Messiah will come within the next year). This is followed by various hymns and stories.

Passover and Christianity
The Passover Seder is the meal Christ and his disciples enjoyed in the Upper Room and is known throughout history as The Last Supper. Christian Communion is a continued observance of the Tzafun (eating of the Afikomen) and Barech portions of the Seder meal.

As Christians, we believe that the symbol of Passover fortells Christ's Atonement for our Death. Historically the death of a firstborn son was an eternal death of sorts for the family. It was symbolic of the family's loss of bloodline, power and status. In a sense, a family which lost its firstborn would be eternally damned. Much the same as Christians believe all mankind to be eternally damned. During the first Passover, any one who took refuge in one of the Jewish houses painted with the blood of the lamb was spared. In much the same way, we Christians believe that anyone who takes refuge in a life painted with the Blood of the Lamb of God (Christ), will be passed over by eternal damnation.

The deep historical rituals of Passover hold poignant significance in the foretelling of Christ's sacrifice.

The parsley dipped in salt-water at the beginning of the meal foretells the waving of Palm branches during Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

The Matzah, or unleavened bread has brown grill marks and is perforated with holes for cooking. The ritual at the beginning of the meal has this Matzah broken into THREE pieces, and the center piece (AfiKomen) hidden. The Matzah fortells the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The middle piece, Afikomen, Jesus is removed to Earth for a time. This Afikomen bears the grill marks (by His stripes we are healed) and the holes (He was pierced for our transgressions) that symbolise Christ's Passion. It is the AfiKomen that Jesus broke for the disciples. It is the Afikomen, the middle piece broken from the side of God, that Jesus instructed be eaten in Remembrance of Him.

I hope everyone has a beautiful Passover this year. Next Year in Jerusalem.


At 12:09 PM, April 12, 2006, Blogger Pink Kitty said...

I'm all weepy. Thank you for the post. There are times that I think we as modern Christians are truly disconnected from our roots, both in Judiaism and the Orthodox Church.

It may be just me but I find alot of value and comfort and peace in some of the old traditions.

At 12:18 PM, April 12, 2006, Anonymous brittney said...

Wow. That was very informative.

Thank you for making me more knowledgeable.

At 12:22 PM, April 12, 2006, Blogger Heather said...

Thank you, that clarified so much for me. I appreciate your taking the time to share your knowledge.

At 1:05 PM, April 12, 2006, Blogger SistaSmiff said...

I'm so looking forward to participating, tomorrow evening, in a Seder. I've been to one before and it was so powerful and totally changed my Christian walk. The cool thing is how it all parallels and connects. Makes me wonder how in the world the Jews missed it???? Anyway, I'm hopefully going to be blogging about the Seder after tomorrow.

At 12:00 PM, April 13, 2006, Blogger Malia said...

Thanks for this post. I've known much of this for some time but I tend to forget the specifics of the meal itself, it was great to have a reminder of it!

At 9:35 AM, April 01, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is incredibily insulting to Jews and so very inaccurate. You should be ashamed.

At 9:48 AM, April 01, 2007, Blogger Kat Coble said...

Funny, but the entire breakdown of the Seder was from a Jewish scholar.

So if you have any complaints about the accuracy, I suggest you take it up with Tracey Rich.


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