Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Matzah and Wine ~ an introduction to Seder

Well, yesterday was one of the last Sundays I'll be at my church. But I am glad I went....(the music sucked, but that's beside the point....) Instead of a sermon we had Roy Schwarcz from Middle East Ministries as well as pastor/rabbi at Adat Hatikvah (Congregation of Hope) in Evanston, IL, (a Messianic Jewish congregation) present a Passover Seder in our morning service. The cups, the wine, the matzah, the clothing, the candles, the Seder table - it was all set up in the front of the sanctuary. He explained all the steps and the meanings. He read from a Haggadah - there are many, and this was a Messianic Passover Haggadah. Haggadah means "to tell", and it is a compilation of the passages and rituals used for the Seder Service. Interestingly there are now over 1200 versions of the Haggadah. Which I guess would make sense if each Rabbi's "yoke" is different eh? Anyway.

He explained about ridding the house of leaven,the lighting of the candles and men's and women's roles in the Seder.
He explained the Four Cups of Wine: The Cup of Sanctification(The Kiddush), The Cup of judgment, The Cup of Redemption and The Cup of Praise.
He said Kiddush (in Hebrew) - I love the way it just rolls of the tongue, the beauty of it.
He did hand washing - although he says in his congregation they do foot washing, and then the dipping of the parsley in the first cup - again with the Hebrew recitation. Red Wine represents blood of the lamb, parsley represents hyssop, and salt water represents the tears shed in Egypt and the Red Sea. That was so interesting - all the purposeful symbolism.
Then he moved on to the next step, which amazed me. Because we see the obvious symbolism, and the Jews don't really get it. It is The Yachutz . There is a special napkin divided into three parts with a matzah in each. The napkin is called the Unity. They bypass the first and third sections and remove the middle Matzah, break it in half and return one half, hiding the other in a small napkin called the Afikomen. That is used later. Jewish tradition says there are three Matzahs because daily meals use one loaf of bread, Sabbath uses two and the third is used to honor Passover. But if you ask why the middle Matzah is broken the answer is always - "Tradition" and the meaning beyond that is unclear. Often when learning about Passover for Bar Mitzvah the answer is "Don't ask." The obvious meaning to a Messianic Jew is the Unity of the Trinity, and the middle matzah is broken as they see it because that is the picture of Jesus the son.
Then Rabbi Schwarcz read The Maggid or the story of the Exodus.
The second Cup of wine is poured.
After this he had a child go up and ask the Four Questions. I won't be specific here, but it explains the leavened and unleavened bread, the bitter herbs, the saltwater and finally why Passover is celebrated reclining at the table. (Reclining was the sign of a free man long ago and Passover was the freeing of the Jewish forefathers.)

When they recited the ten plagues brought by God on the Egyptians a drop of wine is poured from the the cup at the mention of each plague.
There is more retelling of history - the killing of the firstborn and the symbolism. Then the Dayenu (We would have been satisfied) is sung by all the participants.
Pesach (shankbone of a lamb) follows and the reason lamb is not eaten was explained. Matzah is lifted up and explained. It will be broken and dipped in Maror - which is the bitter herb. Horseradish is usually used. They want it to bring tears to the eyes to symbolize great sorrow.This is followed by dipping Matzah in sweet honey & apples (The Korekh) - to remind then of the Lord's blessing and the promised land. As well as to remind them that life contains both the bitter and the sweet. The praise that follows is called The Hallel. After this the second cup of wine is drunk. Hands are washed again. Then the three matzahs are held up and a blessing is recited and the things that have been explained above are eaten, followed by a full meal. The Birka Hamazon or the blessing after the meal is recited. This is followed by the third cup. Again, passages from the scripture are read. The third cup is drunk.
Elijah's Place is celebrated - an empty place setting - reserved for Elijah who must come before the Messiah. They then open the door and look for Elijah - who they never find. Messianic Jews believe he has already come in the person of John the Baptist.
Hallel, the fourth cup includes a responsive reading or recitation. It is a praise ceremony. They drink the fourth cup. Upon the unified recitation of "Next Year in Jerusalem" the Seder is ended.

It was very, very interesting. Enlightening. I didn't do a real good job of explaining, but he did, and it was amazing - all the meaning behind the rituals. Both the obvious meaning, and also the "hidden" meaning that believers see. I find myself really becoming interested in Jewish culture/history because it makes everything we as Christians do/believe have so many more layers of meaning. We shouldn't and can't really divorce ourselves from the Jewish heritage of Christianity. Neither can we truly understand our faith without this critical background information. I think I would like to study this more. Anyway. It was just so cool I wanted to share it with you guys and I apologize that this is such a long post.


A said...

Wow, you've hit on a big topic here. You are absolutely right though. The more we know/learn about the Jewish background of our faith, the deeper everything gets.

I have a theory that I landed on 6 or 7 years ago through studying a number of passages along with the historical information regarding the passover. This isn't the place, but I should find a way to either post it on my blog or get you some notes. The bottom line, is that when the timing is correlated a certain way, Jesus' triumphal entry would coincide with the parading of thousands of sheep into Jerusalem for people to purchase as their passover sacrifice. And then, he dies at the time when the lambs would have been killed for passover, as our ultimate passover lamb, sacrificing himself for the sin of the world. It is powerful and gives a whole new layer of meaning to his death and resurrection. I'll figure out a way to do a better presentation of the idea another time before passion week.

I think it is cool that this was done at the church we grew up in. I never would have imagined they would have done it, but I'm glad they did.

gerbmom said...

Yeah, it was a shock to me too. And it encouraged me a bit. But it's just too little too late.....and it doesn't address other serious problems there at all.
Next Sunday, the 12 disciples will be serving communion. Should be interesting. I won't be able to tell you about it though, because we will be in Wrigleyville with Samm (former youth guy the kids loved) visiting his church and having good food and fellowship afterwards at his apartment. Which, at his request, will include a conversation about why I (we?) am leaving Faith - because he wants to know. I think somehow, knowing Samm, he'll understand. I'll let you know how it goes.