The Baal Shem Tov used to eat three festival meals on Acharon Shel Pesach.
The Baal Shem Tov called the (third) meal of this day Mashiach’s s’uda (the “festival meal of Mashiach”). Acharon Shel Pesach is the day for Mashiach’s s’uda because on this day the radiance of the light of Mashiach shines openly.
In 5666 (1906) a new procedure was adopted for Pesach in the Yeshiva Tomchei T’mimim in Lubavitch: The students ate the Pesach meals all together, in the study hall. There were 310 students present seated at eighteen tables. My father the Rebbe ate the festive meal of Acharon Shel Pesach with the yeshiva students. He ordered that four cups of wine be given each student, and then declared, “this is Mashiach’s s’uda.”
-Compiled and arranged by the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, in 5703 (1943)
from the talks and letters of the sixth Chabad Rebbe
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory.
Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
In the seventeenth century the founder of the Chassidic movement, Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer (the Baal Shem Tov) instituted a new custom for the last day of Passover. He called it the Meal of Messiah (Seudat Mashiach). It consisted of a special, additional meal on the afternoon of the last day of Passover, paralleling the traditional third meal of Shabbat. The Baal Shem Tov emphasized that the main component of the meal was matzah. After all, it was the last meal on the last day of Chag HaMatzot, the feast of Unleavened Bread. A few generations later, the Rebbe Rashab (1860-1920) added the custom of four cups of wine, mirroring the seder of the first night. Some Chassidic Jews still celebrate this special Messiah seder on the last day of the festival. They gather together to end the festival with matzah, four cups of wine, and a special focus on the Messiah.
The entire theme of the meal focuses on the coming of Messiah and the final redemption. The meal is festive in spirit. Everyone wishes one another “L’chayim! (to life!)” while discussing their insights into Messiah and their dreams and hopes for the Messianic Era. The meal concludes with fervent singing and dancing in joyous elation over the promise of the Messianic redemption.
“What is the Meal of Messiah? Part 2 of 3”
First Fruits of Zion
I’m sure that especially at this time of year with the Passover having just ended, we are all familiar with the redemption of Israel from their slavery in Egypt by the God of their fathers. Yet, redemption doesn’t always occur at a single point in history or in a single moment in time. Though the bodies of the Israelites were free, the minds and spirits of that first generation remained enslaved. In fact, almost none of that first generation, ironically including Miriam, Aaron, and Moses, would live to see the crossing of the Jordan and the fulfillment of the promise by inhabiting the land of Canaan.
One way we can look at the Meal of the Messiah, as instituted by the Baal Shem Tov and further described by Boaz Michael, is the further redemption of Israel and the celebration of that generation who would truly inhabit the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the Land of Israel.
But what about those of us who are not their descendants? What of we, among the nations, who through our discipleship to the Master, we have become attached to the God is the Israelites? Does the Meal of the Messiah mean anything to us?
When they ate, Yeshua took the bread, made a brachah, broke it, and gave it to his disciples saying, “Take and eat it; this is my body.” He took the cup, made a brachah, and gave it to them saying, “Drink from this, all of you, for this is my blood, the blood of the new covenant, which is poured out on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sin.” –Matthew 26:26-28 (DHE Gospels)
Chassidim who keep the custom of celebrating the Meal of Messiah on the last day believe that by eating the matzah and drinking the wine, they are connecting with Messiah in both a tangible and spiritual way. God created us with our five senses, and he desires to bind us to him through our senses. To me, the parallels between this concept and the Master’s words at his last seder are astounding. It brings to my mind the Master’s words of “Take, eat; this is my body” and “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood.” Chassidim actually believe that when matzah is eaten at Passover that “we are eating G-dliness.” In fact:
Through eating at the time of … Moshiach’s Seudah we connect them with the physical world. In this manner, we create “a dwelling place” for G-d on the material plane. (Schneerson, Sichos in English, 3:20, 22-23)
-Boaz Michael, What is the Meal of Messiah? Part 2
Through the witness of the Master’s own words in Matthew’s Gospel, we can make a link between the imagery of the Chassidim and the Messiah’s final meal among his closest disciples. Through the words of the Master, we can also make a connection to us. Although we Gentile disciples cannot consider ourselves as having stood at the foot of Sinai or having crossed the Jordan into Canaan, on the final day of the Feast of Unleavened bread, we can partake of the bread of Jesus Christ, the bread of life.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. –John 6:35 (ESV)
In fact, from ancient Jewish sources, “Bread” is one of the names of the Messiah:
Concerning the meaning of “in the sweat of your face you shall eat bread” (Genesis 3:19), the following explanation is given: “This hints about the Torah which is called bread, as it says, ‘Come, eat of my bread’ (Proverbs 9:5). Because of Adam’s sin, the Torah could not be fully explained until the days of Messiah” (Panim Yafot, Breshit 3). Accordingly, it is only Messiah who is able to reveal the full and complete meaning of the Torah, which gives life. In other words, inability to understand the Law brings about spiritual starvation. The perfect food, the “bread” of Messiah, therefore, is that which is able to ensure life.
Lechem (Bread) pg 136
The Concealed Light: Names of Messiah in Jewish Sources
And yet, if the full yoke of the Law is not meant for the nations, but only the offspring of Jacob, what can this mean to us? Sadan continues (pp 136-7):
The “sign” performed inside the bodies of the people of Israel, according to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, was the nourishment of the manna. “How do we know that [this bread] did not come out of them [as excrement]? Because instead of reading ‘man ate of the bread of the angels [abbirim]’ (Psalm 78:24 ESV), you should read ‘man ate of the bread of the limbs [evarim]’ – bread that completely melts in the limbs” (Numbers Rabbah 7:4).
With this explanation, it is easy to see why the people of Israel were encouraged to eat from this Bread, as it says, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalm 34:8). Wondering what the people should taste, Rashi concluded that Israel should taste the “Word” (Rashi to Psalm 34:9). For Rashi “Word” meant Law, but according to another explanation, “Word” is also the Messiah…
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. –John 1:14 (ESV)
As you may know, my family’s Passover seder last week was something less than inspired. Also, it has never been our tradition to have a second meal at the end of the week of unleavened bread, so we have good reasons to not “tempt God” by trying to fulfill this custom.
But as we exit the week of matzah, we re-enter a life filled with the world in all it’s glories and disappointments. May God grant that we retain something of the radiance of the light of Mashiach, as we continue to progress in a world of darkness, with our path illuminated only by His Lamp.
Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path. -Psalm 119:105 (Stone Edition Tanakh)
Find out more about the Meal of the Messiah at FFOZ.org.