There is one story that is a traditional tale told as part of the Passover observance. It is a story about 4 Jewish sons and speaks about their attitudes toward religion. The sons are named: Wise, Wicked, Simple and Young. Young is ignorant of Israel’s traditions and culture, Simple is indifferent to the festivals, Wicked rejects everything and is disrespectful, and Wise is the observant one. Which son are you?
I want to learn to be Wise but most the time I am Young! I want to find what is honoring the Father (i.e. following His instructions) and weigh carefully what has been adopted by the church, whether it is from Christianity or Judaism. I want to find the pure word so that I will not be Wicked, Simple or Young! If it is wise to be observant, then let us begin there! Let’s observe! Let’s examine what is traditional and what is the bottom line. May we all do like Wise.
TIME TO CLEAN HOUSE
It wasn’t that long ago that the traditions of the Christian church were removed from my home, and the search for the leaven-free gospel was begun. Along with the shift to Torah-observance comes a whole bunch of traditional and cultural baggage from Judaism that isn’t necessarily a good replacement either! Just give me good doctrine!
Now that I have abandoned the pagan practices associated with Easter, it is important to understand how honoring the Resurrection of Yehsua should more properly be understood as Passover, and why, how and when to observe it.
How do we figure out when Passover is to be observed? Why is it important to observe since Yeshua is our final Passover Lamb? What traditions that are observed by the Jewish community are actually Biblical and what can we learn from them? What does spring cleaning and removing the leaven from our home have to do with anything?
I understand that the ‘leaven of the Pharisees’ is most properly understood as ‘hypocrisy’ (see http://www.bulldozerfaith.com/fear-and-leaven) But, I also know that our brothers and sisters in Jewish families are careful to remove actual ‘leaven’ from their homes in preparation for the Feast of YHVH known as The Feast of Unleavened Bread, or Passover. This ‘spring cleaning’ of leaven is a practice I have begun too. And while I am removing the literal leaven, I am also seeking areas of hypocrisy and pride in my own life in order to remove them as well.
In the old days, bread was leavened with a sour-dough type of starter. They didn’t go down to the local grocer for a package of yeast. For any of you who have ever kept a ‘starter’ for baking, you know that they can last indefinitely. The yeast continues to grow and accumulate over months and months.
This is a good picture of how sin and pride creep into our households. We keep doing things out of habit without really thinking about it. We need to make a reassessment of what we do and believe! Therefore, when we toss out the old leaven, we can start over with a clean slate and a heart to observe His commands. Just as our house is refreshed, so are we!
EIGHT DAY FEAST
Just like Sukkot and the Last Great Day is an 8 day feast in the fall, Passover and Unleavened Bread is an 8 day feast in the Spring. According to Exodus 12, the Israelites were instructed to sacrifice the lamb on the 14th day of the first month. Afterward, the blood of the lamb swabbed upon their door frames was a sign of their observance and obedience to the command from YHVH. Because of the blood of the lamb, the plague sent to the Egyptians (death of the first born) passed over their homes.
It is not my intention to get into a calendar debate. There are just too many opinions and too much information to synthesize into a compact space. Do your own study and see what makes sense to you when you check calendars against the scriptures. Whether you observe based on the Aviv Barley and the Sliver of the moon, Hillel II or Conjunction calendar, the most important thing is to observe the Passover.
It saddens me when an argument over the ‘right’ calendar divides us, but we must be fully convinced in our own mind and heart. He will sort it out when He returns. Maybe that is why He told us no one knows the day or the hour! He expected us to be in this mess, didn’t he?
So, find a calendar, check it against scripture and ask Him to guide you into truth. In the meantime, we do need to observe Passover! It was a commandment to observe this event and share it with our children forever. As a matter of fact, according to Ezekiel, we will observe Passover and Unleavened Bread in the millennial kingdom!
Eze 45:21 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, you shall celebrate the feast of the passover, and you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days.
IS PASSOVER A DAY OR AN 8 DAY FEAST?
There seems to be a lot of confusion about what day the lamb was sacrificed, and when the week of unleavened bread begins. It is my understanding that the 14th is the day of Passover. That’s the day the sacrifice happened. Passover is a ‘preparation’ day, because the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins and ends with a High Sabbath and no sacrifices would be done on that day.
The lambs are selected on the 10th of the First Month of the Year (also when Yeshua made his triumphal entry riding a young donkey). The lambs are inspected for four days so they can be offered without blemish on the afternoon of the 14th. (Just as Yeshua was ‘inspected’ during his trial and was declared ‘without fault’ four times!) The Feast of Unleavened Bread begins on the 15th (the day following Passover) and carries through the 21st.
Over the years the term ‘Passover’ has been used to describe the entire 8 day festival (Passover and Week of Unleavened Bread). The other confusing thing is the fact that a Hebrew ‘day’ begins at sunset (as the previous day ends) and ends at the next sunset (when the following day begins)! It is still difficult for me to wrap my head around this difference in telling time!
Traditionally, the lamb was sacrificed at 3pm on the 14th. The High Sabbath on the first day of the week of Unleavened Bread begins on the 15th.
WHAT IS A SEDER?
Seder means ‘order’ in Hebrew. Traditions have evolved where the Seder meal is accompanied by the telling of the story of the Exodus from Egypt. This is a powerful tool to teach our children the truth of the Bible! There is no script in the scriptures for how this is to be done, so the Jewish tradition is to use a ‘haggadah.’ The haggadah (story) is shared on Passover in a particular order, with songs and other customs.
Other traditions with the Seder include special linens, dishes, food items, and 4 cups of wine. The four small glasses of wine, symbolize redemption, freedom, release and deliverance, as experienced when the twelve tribes of Israel escaped Egypt. Other traditions share the four wine cups as: I will bring out, I will deliver, I will redeem, and I will take.
Often a separate and special cup of wine is set out for the arrival of Elijah! The door is opened in anticipation of his arrival and to welcome others to share in the bread and wine.
There are even four traditional questions that are usually a part of the Seder. They are:
“On all other nights, we do not dip even once, but on this night, we dip twice. Why?”
“On all other nights we eat bread or matzah, but on this night we eat only matzah. Why?”
“On all other nights, we eat all kinds of herbs, but on this night we eat only Maror. Why?”
“On all other nights, we eat either sitting or reclining, but on this night, we eat reclining. Why?”
All of these help to tell the story of the Exodus, and establish a familiar custom that is repeated and loved. I’m hoping that the questions will encourage you to seek and observe the answers for yourself!
Passover is regarded as the most beloved Feast of the Jewish family, and is a reminder of their heritage. It celebrates hope and establishes lasting bonds within the family, while keeping alive the memory of YHVH’s deliverance of the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt. This is the root of our Messianic/Hebraic understanding of this Feast as well.
WHAT IS AN AFIKOMAN?
Along with several traditional food items, the most important is the Unleavened Bread, or Matzah! One of three pieces of Matzah that are part of the Seder meal is called the Afikoman.
AFIKOMAN : the name of a portion of matzah (unleavened bread) eaten at the conclusion of the Passover evening meal. In most traditions, early in the evening, the person conducting the seder breaks the middle of the three matzah into two pieces, putting away the larger portion, designated as afikoman, for consumption at the conclusion of the meal. The word afikoman, of Greek origin but uncertain etymology, probably refers to the aftermeal songs. This afikoman has become a symbolic reminder of the paschal sacrifice.
The Afikoman is usually wrapped in a linen cloth and ‘hidden’ away, which is a picture of the Messiah placed in the tomb. The Afikomen is later ‘discovered’ by the children and the family shares the Afikomen at the conclusion of the meal. The piercings, stripes and leaven-free appearance of the Matzah is also a reminder of Yeshua and how he was wounded for our transgressions.
In addition to the Matzah, a typical Seder plate will have the following: an unbroken lamb bone, a roasted egg, bitter horseradish herbs, a green veggie to dip in saltwater and charoset, which is made from walnuts, wine and apples. Each of these items is used in the haggadah as the story of the Exodus is recounted.
What do each of these element represent? The following explanation is found at (http://judaism.about.com/od/holidays/a/sederplatesymbols.htm ). Some information has been edited for clarity and relevance and my comments are in [brackets].
Vegetable (Karpas) – This part of the seder plate dates back to a first and second century tradition in Jerusalem that involved beginning a formal meal by dipping vegetables in salt water before eating them. Hence, at the beginning of the seder a vegetable – usually lettuce, cucumber, radish or parsley – is dipped in salt water and eaten.
—-It is sometimes said that the salt water represents the tears our ancestors shed during their years of enslavement. [The salt water could also represent the Red Sea that was parted during the Exodus.]
Shank bone (Zeroa) – The roasted shank bone of a lamb reminds us of the tenth plague in Egypt, when all firstborn Egyptians were killed. The Israelites marked the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a lamb as a signal that death should pass over them, as it is written:
Exodus 12:12: “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn – both men and animals – and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt… The blood will be a sign… on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” The shank bone also reminds us of the sacrificial lamb that was killed and eaten during the days when the Temple stood.
—- The shank bone is sometimes called the Paschal lamb, with “paschal” meaning “He [YHVH] skipped over” the houses of Israel. [It also symbolizes the prophecy that said not a bone of the Messiah would be broken.]
Hard Boiled Egg (Baytzah) – There are two interpretations of the symbolism of the hard boiled egg. One is that it is an ancient fertility symbol [still apparent in Easter observances]. The other is that it is a symbol of mourning for the loss of the two Temples, the first of which was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E. and the second of which was destroyed by the Romans around 70 C.E.
—-Hard boiled eggs were traditionally the food of mourners and hence they were an appropriate symbol for the loss of these sacred sites [or to mourn the death of the Messiah].
Charoset – Haroset is a mixture that is often made of apples, nuts, wine and spices.
—-It represents the mortar the Israelites were forced to use while they built structures for their Egyptian taskmasters.
Bitter Herbs (Maror) – Because the Israelites were slaves in Egypt we eat bitter herbs to remind us of the harshness of servitude. Horseradish – either the root or a prepared paste – is most often used. A small amount of maror is usually eaten with an equal portion of charoset. It can also be made into a “Hillel Sandwich,” where maror and charoset are sandwiched between two pieces of matzah.
—– [This is also from the following verses:
Exo_12:8 ‘And they shall eat the flesh on that night, roasted in fire – with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.]
Bitter Vegetable (Hazeret) – This piece of the seder plate also symbolizes the bitterness of slavery. Romaine lettuce is usually used, which doesn’t seem very bitter but the plant has bitter tasting roots. When hazeret is not represented on the seder plate some Jews will put a small bowl of salt water in its place.
There are some haggadah booklets that you can find to guide you through your own Seder. I just purchased one called: Dry Bones Haggadah PDF. Last year we used Leigh Rood Fransen’s book: “Behold the Lamb” as our guide. It is from a Messianic/Hebrew Roots perspective and provides a lot of ideas for songs, a script, and menu planning. It helps to take the angst out of trying to do this for the first time. Fransen’s book provides suggestions on how to tailor the Seder meal to hold significance for you and ways to begin to establish your own family traditions.
CAN WE KEEP PASSOVER?
Passover is a commemorative event. It was a one-time instruction to Moses and the Israelites to place blood on their door posts. All Passover observances following were to memorialize and remind and instruct. Another shadow-picture!
We cannot ‘keep’ Passover in a literal sense. We are not in Jerusalem, there is no Temple and we have no Levitical Priesthood to conduct a sacrifice either! The men of Israel were commanded to ‘go up’ to Jerusalem for three pilgrimage events: Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot. While there, each family would sacrifice their own lambs, and the priests would pour it out some of the blood at the base of the altar.
In the absence of the Temple and Levites, there is absolutely no instruction to sacrifice lambs today! As a matter of fact, it would be a sin to do so!
“Since we cannot ‘keep’ the feast, why do we do anything at all?” This sounds like something Simple or Wicked would say! Wouldn’t it be better to be Wise?
WHAT ARE THE FEASTS FOR?
Since all of the Feasts of YHVH are shadow-pictures of the Messiah (Paul calls them good things to come) we remember and observe them in order to proclaim Him and be obedient to His commandments. There is no ‘expiration date’ on the Feasts of YHVH found in Leviticus 23.
Today we gather together with our brothers and sisters and celebrate and continue to tell our children and friends the story of the Exodus. It tells us of our Messiah! It is a rehearsal to prepare us for even greater things to come. (See: http://www.bulldozerfaith.com/the-greater-exodus-not-the-rapture )
SHOULD WE PASSOVER OR PASS OVER?
Should we pass along the traditions of men, or only some of them? Maybe our Passover will re-invent the ‘haggadah’ for our generation. I only brushed the surface of all the symbols found in the traditions handed down through the years. There are things to be learned from many of the traditions. Sometimes, the customs point to Yeshua in a way that Judaism doesn’t even realize! Seek them out yourself and find what speaks to you. I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules on ‘how’ to remember, but we are commanded to do so!
Find a local group, or get a hold of a ‘haggadah’ so that you can do your own Seder on the 14th. Do your spring cleaning. Get the ‘leaven’ out of your house and embrace a week of unleavened bread.
What’s with the Unleavened Bread?
When I was Young, I spoke as a child. That is what the questions over why we should eat Unleavened bread make me think of! How difficult is it to have a week-long reminder of the most momentous event in history?
The important thing is to understand how Yeshua is our Passover Lamb. Every time you reach for a wafer of unleavened bread remember His sacrifice. It is dry. When you eat it remember how He suffered thirst on your behalf (and mine!). Do like Wise and take a week to ‘observe.’
In the meantime, let us observe the Feasts for they are all shadows of what is to come! (Col 2:16-17)
1Co 5:7-8 Therefore cleanse out the old leaven, so that you are a new lump, as you are unleavened. For also Messiah our Passover was offered for us. So then let us observe the festival, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of evil and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
The Spring Feasts of the Lord by Michael Rood gives a more in depth study of how the Spring Feasts (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits) were all ‘fulfilled’ by Yeshua at His crucifixion, resurrection and ascension into heaven. The Chronological Gospels (Rood) is another fine resource that places Yeshua in context of all the Feasts of YHVH.
Some information for this article was found at http://www.happypassover.net/passover-customs/index.html