“Wait! Stay in your chair!” my friend rebuked both his sons, who were sitting at the Passover table. The two wanted to get up and sit elsewhere with their phones as they got tired of reading the Haggadah (the story of the exodus out of Egypt, compiled by rabbis centuries ago, depicting their arguments concerning the customs to be kept during this feast). Growing up in a non-Jewish surrounding in the US, they did not miss the songs we were about to sing, or the edible symbols the long annual meal was pointing to on and off (this special meal, called “Seder”, can last anywhere between 2-4 hours).
But their father was truly concerned. There was one sentence he needed them to quote that night from the Haggadah before he could let them go: “Whoever does not discuss the following three things on Pesach has not fulfilled his duty: Pesach (the Pesach-sacrifice); Matzah (unleavened bread); and Maror (bitter herbs).”
The two young men cited it with dull voices, and went on with their business. The rest of us continued to read the Haggadah for a long hour, than stopped to eat an abundance of traditional dishes, and than went back to reading and singing the last parts of it.
The children of Israel passing through the dry land
in the midst of the dead sea – a great design for the Passover table
Why was it so important for my friend? Because Rabban Gamliel (10BC-70AD) said so. Gamliel meant that fathers must teach their parents about each of these symbols, so that we will never forget how we were brought out of Egypt, that there was a sacrifice that paid the price, and that life were bitter in slavery. But through centuries, the only MUST that survived in many Jewish homes is saying these three words. In Hebrew of course. Doesn’t matter if you don’t understand their meaning. Just say them, so your papa can regain his peace, knowing he did his part.
I was watching this little episode, amused, but also deeply touched and surprised. This was the first time I attended a non-Messianic Passover meal in years. I usually celebrate it with my family. We developed our own version that takes the best from the Jewish tradition and brings God and His Lamb into it. I forgot all these must dos and mustn’t dos around this feast.
What must we do?
Here is the list, according to the Torah:
“The Lord’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of that month the Lord’s Festival of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. For seven days present a food offering to the Lord. And on the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work” (Lev. 23:5-8).
We are told on what date to celebrate it, what sacrifice to bring, what to eat and read, and what to abstain of (work).
Nowadays the celebration peaks at the eve of the holiday, called the Seder. At the center of it there is this fancy family meal, with many guests, sitting around the table and reading the Haggadah. This booklet, by the way, does not even mention Moses’ name!
Passover is supposed to remind us that we were delivered from slavery, but any bystander looking at the particular and meticulous preparations Jewish women go through to get ready for it, turning every piece of furniture and every drawer in the house searching for leaven, can clearly see that delivery from slavery is not exactly one of the values set before us during this feast.
The reason is interesting, historical and significant. I will explain it in my next post. In the meantime, will you please pray for our nation, as we prepare for the big celebration tomorrow night?
You can pray that as we clean and search for leaven in our belongings, we will be as diligent to look for it mostly in our hearts.
That somehow the powerful symbols we will have on our tables will make us search for their meaning; that our nation will not just say the words in order to fulfill our duty and calm our papas, but that the words will seep deep into our being. That we will desire to understand the need of a Passover Lamb in order to preserve our lives from death.
You can also pray concerning our bitterness towards God. This is our general attitude towards Him, even among atheists. Just like Naomi, who identified herself as bitter upon returning home from Diaspora, and needed a gentile relative to communicate with her the kindness and provision of the Redeemer, so do we need you, our Gentile brothers and sisters, to come alongside us and melt our bitterness towards Him.
If you have personal contacts with Jews, take this opportunity to wish them Hag Sameach and share with them a short testimony of how God has delivered you out of a specific slavery.