By Becca Owsley, The (Kentucky) News-Enterprise www.TheNewsEnterprise.com
While many of us went about our daily business, Monday at sundown, Passover began.
The Jewish faith has been celebrating Passover (Pesach) since the time of the Old Testament and some Christian churches also celebrate it as a connection to the beginnings of their faith.
But what exactly is the Passover?
Morris Schwartz, Jewish Lay Leader at Fort Knox, explained.
On the Shabbat preceding the beginning of Nisan, the month in which Passover falls, he reads the Parshat HaHodesh, Exodus 12:1-20, that contains the command to observe the very first Passover while Israel was still in Egypt.
The significance of the event for all generations to come is found in Exodus 12:2, “this month shall be first among the months for you; it shall be first for you among the months of the year.”
“Given that we will be privileged to celebrate Pesach once again this week, the importance of this Torah portion is as a reminder that time has a spiritual, as well as a physical dimension, and that the celebration of this, our most favorite holiday, has the continuing potential to root us firmly in the story of our people and to bring us to a place of deeper connection with the Holy One,” Schwartz said.
His connection to the military gives a special meaning to Pesach. “We all know the slogan, ‘freedom isn’t free.’ It means that sometimes we have to make sacrifices for it, perhaps even the ultimate sacrifice–or that others have done so on our behalf,” Schwartz said.
For Jews, Schwartz said, freedom is endowed with special significance, signifying the removal of obstacles to their service to the Holy One.
While the Seder, or Passover meal, is typically a family event, many communities come together to celebrate one of the two Seders, Schwartz said.
Why are two Seders celebrated two nights in a row? “In Israel, there is only one Seder night because they are in the Promised Land,” Schwartz said. “We know they are in the right place at the right time to celebrate the anniversary of the Exodus from slavery into freedom.”
Outside of Israel, Schwartz said, two days are celebrated, with two Seders to ensure they have marked the anniversary date correctly.
Marnie Clagett, whose father is Jewish, has memories of celebrating Passover as a child. When she and her brother, Dave, were children, they were one of three families there who celebrated Passover.
“Dave and I have always been glad that we were able to be a part of those celebrations,” Clagett said. “Neither one of us is Jewish — we’re both Christian — but having an awareness of what the Passover celebration really means has deepened my awareness of where the Christian faith began. It’s much easier for me to imagine Jesus and His followers preparing for and celebrating the Passover, having experienced those Passovers as a kid.”
She remembers amazing cooks and a ton of food. Clagett remembers the Seder being filled with fantastic rituals such as men and boys wearing their yarmulkes and women pinning a piece of lace at the backs of their heads. Children had questions assigned to them.
“Everything is explained so that the children will remember what their Jewish ancestors went through in Egypt and how God delivered them from slavery into freedom,” Clagett said.
Rabi Vann Lantz is a Messianic Jew who’s ministry, Davar Emet, helps teach Christian churches about aspects of the Jewish faith that are foundations to their faith.
Part of that is conducting and explaining the Seder in churches. The Messianic Seder points out the element of Jesus in the celebration.
During the meal, the story of Passover is retold from a special book called the Haggadah, which means “the telling.”
“At a Messianic Passover we recognized the symbols of Jesus in all that happens as well as see the three special events that occurred during Messiah’s final Passover, called the Last Supper,” Lantz said. “We see where He washed the feet of the Disciples, where He and Judas dipped their matzoh — unleavened bread — and where he blessed the matzoh and wine, passing them in recognition of the new symbols of His sacrifice.”
While the Passover has many symbols in it, one of Lantz’s favorite is the three matzohs.
“There are three matzohs that are wrapped in a single white linen,” Lantz said. “This represents a mysterious three in one that Believers in Messiah can see as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
During the Seder celebration, the middle piece (which Messianics see as representing the Messiah) is pulled out. Participants see it is striped and pierced—which to Messianics represent the stripes from the whips and the piercing of Jesus by a spear.
That piece is broken in half; one half is wrapped in linen and hidden by the father for later. The broken matzoh is called the afikomen — that which comes later. Jews have differing reasons for its tradition, but Christians recognize it instantly as Christ’s body buried before His resurrection. The afikomen and third cup of wine are likely what Jesus passed out to his Disciples as His Body and Blood.
At the end of the Seder they shout “Next year in Jerusalem.” For 2000 years Jews have concluded their Passover meal with this phrase, indicating their hope for a Temple in Jerusalem in which to conduct the required feasts and sacrifices.