The Scripture says that during this holiday no leaven is to be eaten (Lev. 23:6). In the days leading up to Pesach, the nation has spring cleaning on a scale most of us have never heard of. Some take their pots and pans to communal centers where they are boiled in large vats, and ovens are blow-torched to insure no leaven remains. Rugs are even turned over a week ahead and walked on to shake out deeply embedded, hidden crumbs. Many buy new dishes. In fact, most households have special dishes used only for Pesach. Grocery stores cover leaven products with large sheets of paper and tape to keep customers from buying leaven. (See pages 24–25 for more about leaven.)
The Seder Meal
The holiday begins with a special meal called the seder (“order”) on the eve of the first day of Pesach, called Erev Pesach. The “order” of the evening is written in a book called a Haggadah, which tells the Exodus story of the deliverance of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. Songs, symbolic foods, and liturgy help tell the story in an animated and interesting way for the children, involving all members of the family, and often taking four to six hours.
In biblical times, a spotless, perfect lamb was sacrificed for the seder meal, and it is sometimes still eaten at Pesach, though only Samaritans, living in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), still enact the ritual slaughter. Today, most families serve other meats. Regardless of what is on the menu, the meal is always very special.
Symbolic foods are eaten: maror (bitter herbs), symbolizing the bitterness of slavery; karpas (parsley), dipped in very salty water, recalling the tears of servitude; a roasted egg, symbolizing life; a lamb shank bone, representing the sacrificial lamb; andharoset (an apple-nut mix) for the mortar used to make bricks. Four cups of wine are also drunk, one of which is recorded in the account of Yeshua’s (Jesus’s) last meal with His disciples.
Did you realize that the Last Supper was a Pesach meal? This makes this holiday deeply significant to Christians as well. As Christians, we are thankful that Yeshua became our Passover lamb, as the only sinless man in history, who was sacrificed for our sin. It is believed that Yeshua was crucified at the very time the Passover lambs were being offered on the Temple Mount. This is what is celebrated in Christendom as Good Friday.
During theseder, three pieces of unleavened bread (matzah) are ceremonially set aside. The matzah is striped and pierced in appearance, reminding Christians of the stripes Yeshua received by the whips of the Roman guards and how He was pierced with a sword. What a picture of the sacrificial gift of Yeshua’s life! The middle matzah is called the afikomen. At one point in the meal, it is taken out, broken in half, wrapped in linen, and hidden, just as Yeshua’s body was wrapped in linen and hidden in the grave. Later in the evening, the children are invited to search for it, and the one who finds it rejoices greatly and is given a reward.
I recommend that every Christian experience a Passover seder at least once, as it helps us to understand what happened at the Last Supper. It was three days later duringPesach nearly 2,000 years ago that Yeshua rose again, a cause for great rejoicing by believers ever since. Unfortunately, sometimes our celebration of Resurrection Day (Easter) is not commemorated at the same time as Pesach, thus separating the two, so Christians often don’t make the connection and forget that Yeshua was resurrected during the week of Pesach.
Counting the Omer
The next spring biblical festival that we will cover is Shavuot (Pentecost). What is often missed is what happens between Pesach and Shavuot, but the 50 days between are also part of God’s commandments concerning the festivals (Lev. 23:15–16). This seven-week time period, which we’re instructed to count daily, is called the Counting of the Omer. (An omer was a measure of grain or dry goods amounting to about 1/2 gallon or 3.8 liters.) We count omers because it takes place between the barley and wheat harvests. On each of these days of counting, a blessing is said to thank God for His provision.
There is much more to Pesach than can be explained in this short article. It is a time of celebration in which both Christians and Jews find rich meaning. While the Jewish people commemorate the Exodus from Egypt and Christians celebrate the Last Supper of Yeshua, all of us are celebrating the deliverance of God from bondage. So, if you have a chance to attend a seder, run, don’t walk. It will be an event to remember.
By Rebecca Brimmer, Editor in Chief
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