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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Seder and the Passover: A History

Passover and the Seder for 2014

This was something I received in my email and wanted to share for a better understanding of the meal Jesus was celebrating on Maundy Thursday!

 First Seder Monday, April 14 2014
Second Seder Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Passover is Observed From Sundown on April 14 to Sundown on April 22 2014

To My Dear Christian Friends:

It is my pleasure to share with you the Jewish traditions of Pessach.  As I am getting ready, cleaning the house (and the soul) and shopping for Passover goods, going through my Passover recipies,and trying to decide which of them I will use this year, you all come to mind.  Your love and support of Israel and the Jewish people is "Divine Providence" and we thank G-D and each and every one of you for standing with Israel during such times as these.

Passover and the Holiday of Matzah are two of the names given to the holiday.  G-d refers to the holidays as the Holiday of Matzah and the Jewish nation call it Passover.

The matzah represents the Jews listening to G-d's commandment to leave Egypt immediately.  They were in such a rush that the dough of the bread did not have a chance to rise and instead baked as matzah while still being carried on their backs.  The name Passover represents G-d jumping over the Jewish homes as he killed the Egyptian firstborns.

G-d looks at the Jewish nation positively, recalling their rush to heed his command, and calls it the Holiday of Matzah.  The Jew looks at G-d positively and recalls how He spared their homes, calling it the festival of Passover.
In Our Forefathers' Footsteps
At the Seder, every person should see himself as if he were going out of Egypt.  Beginning with our Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, we recount the Jewish people's descent into Egypt and recall their suffering and persecution.  We are with them as G-d sends the Ten Plagues to punish Pharaoh and his nation, and follow along as they leave Egypt and cross the Sea of Reeds.  We witness the miraculous hand of G-d as the waters part to allow the Israelites to pass, then return to inundate the Egyptian legions.  One of the most imortant Mitzvah (good deed) of  the Seder night, is telling the story to the children, to pass on the story of Passover to the next generation.  Our tradition is to sing all the verses of the "Hagadah", which keeps every one involved and excited.  I always wondered as a child, why are we celebrating the sufferance of the Jewish people, and was taught from a young age, that we should never forget the hardship of our ancestors, but always celebrate the Grace of Hashem for sparing the Jewish People!! Amen! that is why the Seder nights are a celebration while telling the story of Exodus. 
Kadesh - the Benediction
The Seder service begins with the recitation of Kiddush, proclaiming the holiness of the holiday.  This is done over a cup of wine, the first of the four cups we will drink (while reclining) at the Seder.

The Four Cups of Wine
Why four cups?  The Torah uses four expressions of freedom or deliverance in connectionwith our liberation from Egypt (see Exodus 6:6-7).  Also, the Children of Israel had four great merits even while in exile:  1) They did not change their Hebrew names; 2) they continued to speak their own language, Hebrew; 3) they remained highly moral; 4) they remained loyal to one another.  Wine is used because it is a symbol of joy and happiness.
Why We Recline
When drinking the four cups and eating the Matzah we lean on our left side to accentuate the fact that we are free people.  In ancient times only free people had the luxury of reclining while eating.
Urchatz - Purification
We wash our hands in the usual, ritually-prescribed manner before a meal, but without the customary blessing.

The next step in the Seder, Karpas, requires dipping food into water, which in turn mandates, according to Jewish law, that either the food be eaten with a utensil or that one's hands be purified by washing.  On the Seder eve we choose the less common observance to arouse the child's curiosity.

Karpas - the "Appetizer"
A small piece of onion or boiled potato is dipped into salt water and eaten (after reciting the blessing over vegetables.)  Dipping the Karpas in salt water is an act of pleasure and freedom, which further arouses the child's curiosity.  The Hebrew word "Karpas", when read backwards, alludes to the backbreaking labor performed by the 600,000 Jews in Egypt.  (Samech has the numerical equivalent of 60 (60 times 10,000), while the last three Hebrew letters spell "perech", hard work.)  The salt water represents the tears of our ancestors in Egypt.

Yachatz - Breaking the Matzah
The middle Matzah on the Seder plate is broken in two.  The  larger part is put aside for later use as the Afikoman.  This unusual action not only attracts the child's attention once again, but also recalls G-d's splitting of the Sea of Reeds to allow the Children of Israel to cross on dry land.  The smaller part of the middle Matzah is returned to the Seder plate.  This broken middle Matzah symbolizes humility and will be eaten later as the "bread of poverty."
Maggid - the Haggadah
 At this point, the poor are invited to join the Seder.  The Seder tray is moved aside, a second cup of wine is poured, and the child, who by now is bursting with curiosity, asks thetime-honored question:  "Mah nish-tah-na hah-laila-ha-zeh me-kol hah leilot?  Why is this night different from all other nights?"  Why only Matzah?  Why the dipping?  Why the bitter herbs?  Why are we relaxing and leaning on cushions as if we were kings?
The child's questioning triggers one of the most significant mitzvot of Passover, which is the highlight of the Seder ceremony: the Haggadah, telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt.  The answer includes a brief review of history, a description of the suffering imposed upon the Israelites, a listing of the plagues visited on the Egyptians, and an enumeration of the miracles performed by the Al-mighty for the redemption of His people.

 Rochtzah - Washing Before the Meal
After concluding the first part of the Haggadah by drinking (while reclining) the second cup of wine, the hands are washed again, this time with the customary blessings, as is usually done before eating bread.
Motzie Matzah
We eat the matzah.  Taking hold of the three Matzot (with the broken one in between the two whole ones), recite the customary blessing before bread.  Then, letting the bottom Matzah drop back onto the plate, and holding the top whole Matzah with the broken middle one, recite the special blessing "al achilat Matzah."  Then break at least one ounce from each Matzah and eat the two pieces together, while reclining.
Maror - the Bitter Herbs
Take at least one ounce of the bitter herbs.  Dip it in the charoset, which in our home is a mixture of dates, walnuts cooked in sweet wine, different communities have different traditional types of Charoset, Ashkenazi Jews (from Eastern Europe) use apples.  After eating the Charoset we shake the latter off and make the blessing "al achilat Maror."  Eat without reclining.
Korech - the Sandwich
In keeping the custom instituted by Hillel, the great Talmudic Rabbi, a sandwich of Matzah and Maror is eaten.  Break off two pieces of the bottom Matzah, which together should be at least one ounce.  Again, take at least one ounce of bitter herbs and dip them in the charoset.  Place this between the two pieces of Matzah, say "kein asah Hillel..." and eat the sandwich while reclining. 

Shulcham Orech - the Feast
The holiday meal is now served.  We begin the meal with ahardboiled egg dipped into salt water.  A Rabbi was once asked why Jews eat eggs on Passover.  "Because eggs symbolize the Jew,"  the Rabbi answered.  "The more an egg is burned or boiled, the harder it gets."  Note:  The chicken neck is not eaten at the Seder.
Tzafun - Out of Hiding
After the meal, the half Matzah which had been "hidden," set aside for the Afikoman (dessert), is taken out and eaten.  It symbolizes the Paschal lamb, which was eaten at the end of the meal.  Everyone should eat at least 1-1/2 ounces of Matzah, reclining, before midnight.  After eating the Afikoman, we do not eat or drink anything except for the two remaining cups of wine.
Barech - Blessings After the Meal
A third cup of wine is filled and Grace is recited.  After Grace we recite the blessing over wine and drink the third cup while reclining.
Now we fill the cup of Elijah and our own cups with wine.  We open the door and recite the passage which symbolizes an invitation to the Prophet Elijah, the harbinger of the coming of Moshiach, our righteous Messiah.
Hallel - Songs of Praise
At this point, having recognized the Al-mighty, and His unique guidance of the Jewish people, we go still further and sing His praises as L-rd of the entire universe. 
After reciting the Hallel, we again recite the blessing over wine, and drink the fourth cup, reclining.
Nirtzah - Acceptance
Having carried out the Seder service properly, we are sure that it has been well received by the Al-mighty.  We then all sing together joyously:       
"Leshanah haba'ah beh Yerushalayim" 
 "Next year in Jerusalem."
Hag Pesach Kasher Vehsameach!
Happy and Kosher Pesach! 
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