Tag Archives: seder

Passover Arrived But Not The Seder

Moses called to all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Draw forth or buy for yourselves one of the flock for your families, and slaughter the pesach-offering.”

“It shall be that when you come to the land that Hashem will give you, as He has spoken, you shall observe this service. And it shall be that when your children say to you, ‘What is this service to you?’ You shall say, ‘It is a pesach feast-offering to Hashem, Who passed over the houses of the Children of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but He saved our households,'” and the people bowed their heads and prostrated themselves. The Children of Israel went and did as Hashem commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they do.

Exodus 12:21, 25-28 Stone Edition Tanakh

PassoverToday is the first full day of Passover. Jews and a good number of Christians all over the world held their home and community seders last night.

My home wasn’t one of them.

For some months, my wife has been planning on visiting our daughter in California. She left early Sunday morning and won’t be back until midday on Thursday. My grandchildren are with their Mom for the next two weeks, so it’s really only my two sons and I at home. They weren’t exactly clamoring for their old man to dust off our haggadahs and start a lot of cooking.

Passover just sort of crept up on me and suddenly it’s here.

Pesach hasn’t felt this chaotic since the Uninspired Seder of 2012 or the Unanticipated Seder the following year.

And given my comments in my previous blog post, initiating any sort of response to Pesach as a Gentile believer is beyond the scope of my obligations or my rights.

It’s been a difficult time. My Dad is slowly dying of cancer. My Mom’s cognitive abilities continue to dwindle. And as the old time actors used to say, “I am between engagements,” and have been since last Friday. One of my sons had his car engine blow up on him, and the other is buying a house, which sounds wonderful (and in many ways it is), but also introduces different stressors.

I decided to at least do the readings for Pesach I, but when I couldn’t remember where to find my Tanakh on my bookshelf, I realized it has been a really long time since I’ve read the Bible.

That can’t be good.

A friend found a piece of furniture for my son’s new home (since his ex took most of their stuff), so driving over to the gentleman’s house to pick it up, I saw a number of “Jesus loves you” bumper stickers and messages of a similar nature. I figure everything that’s happening to me now is God’s way of getting my attention.

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

“This too is for the good.”

Or as Rabbi Zelig Pliskin put it:

No person can know what is really good for him in the long run.

We lack peace of mind because we feel anxious and worried about what has happened to us in the past, or what might happen to us in the future. But the reality is we can never know in advance the ultimate consequences of events. Being fired from your job, or being forced to find a new home could likely lead to events that will be beneficial for you.

Today, try to recall a time when a “bad” event turned out for the “good.”

I can remember when bad events ultimately resulted in a good outcome, but I also remember the pain involved in dealing with the bad part, and the lengthy time period between bad event and good outcome.

It can be a lonely road from the bad starting line to the good finish line.

But then as long as we live, there never really is a finish. We’re never done contending with life, with other people, disappointment, loss, anxiety, desperation, the works.

I suppose that’s why I’m writing this. I need to gain perspective and to get a handle of everything that’s happening to me right now. I probably should be doing more constructive things, such as cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, scouring job boards and the like, but I’m not.

On Friday, I initiated a flurry of activity post my “between engagements” experience earlier that morning, but over the weekend, the shock had worn off. I had my grandchildren with me, and since they require a lot of attention, that provided a distraction.

But then they left to return to their Mom Sunday afternoon, and I realized just how empty I felt inside.

Okay, God. You got my attention. Now I just need to find a way to change my focus, to even have a focus. A seder last night would have been good timing, which is why I’m puzzled that Hashem arranged for it not to happen.

My wife and my daughter are together, so I hope they had the opportunity to attend a community seder, perhaps at the Chabad.

jumpstart
Found at racingjunk.com

The quiet finally got to be too much for me, so I started listening to “Sunday at the Village Vanguard” by the Bill Evans Trio. It was recorded live in New York City on June 25, 1961 (my daughter’s birthday, though she wasn’t born until decades later).

Over a month or so ago, I wrote about trying to jump start my faith, and as you can see, things haven’t gone so well up.

The prodigal son is still struggling on the path that leads to home.

At the end of each seder, the last words uttered are, “Next year in Jerusalem.” For me, I’d settle for “Next year at home with my family.”

Okay, God, you’ve got my attention. Now what?

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In Response to Evangelicals Embracing Passover

For example, (Paula) White hosted a controversial Messianic-styled teacher named Ralph Messer, on her television program in 2009 to explain the meaning of Passover. Messer is the founder of Simchat Torah Beit Midrash, a school and congregation that teaches the “Hebrew Roots of the Christian Faith” and is perhaps best known for performing ceremonies during which he will wrap church leaders in a Torah scroll.

In the segment on White’s television program, Messer offered his own explanations to White about “Passover’s meaning to Christians.”

from “Evangelicals Are Falling in Love with Passover – Is There Anything Wrong with That?”
written by Sam Kestenbaum for
Forward.com

messer
Ralph Messer – Found at STMB.org

Is there anything wrong with that? Depends. Paula White and Ralph Messer aren’t, in my opinion, particularly credible representatives of Christianity and Messianic Judaism respectively, so I would tend to discount their input.

Of course, “Forward” would be likely to pick such poor examples of those two traditions in order to re-enforce the exclusive Jewishness of Passover.

I kind of don’t blame them, actually. Here’s another example of why:

And in 2013, American televangelist Jim Bakker hosted a lavish televised Passover Seder alongside Messianic author and teacher Jonathan Cahn.

Bakker, who sat alongside Cahn at the head of the stage, added enthusiastically: “It’s not a Jewish holiday, it is a fantastic Christian time,” he said. “I mean, every detail of Jesus is in the Passover.”

Cahn sought to clarify. “It’s both. It’s Jewish and Christian, because it’s all one.” Jesus, Cahn said, “is the center of the church and Israel, really we’re supposed to be one.”

-ibid

Well, that was horrible. I know that in the future Messianic Age there may well be aspects of the Passover that can be applied to the Gentile (certainly not partaking of the Pascal meal however), and maybe there can be some takeaways for the Gentile believer in the present age, but we’d better watch our step.

Bakker’s statement about Passover being a Christian rather than a Jewish holiday is outrageous. Sure, Cahn backpedaled for him and said it’s both Christian and Jewish, but who was the original Passover directed at? Certainly not Christians who didn’t even exist yet.

christian at kotelThere are times when I get a little tired of churches seeing “types and shadows” of Christ in every little detail of the Tanakh (what Christians call the “Old Testament”), as if Passover and many other sacred events had no intrinsic meaning to Israel in and of themselves.

Christianity just can’t stand being left out of the party, so it has to rewrite the invitations to exclude the Jews and bring in the Evangelicals.

But then there’s this:

“As Messianics, we see ourselves as a bridge,” said Mitch Glaser, head of Chosen People Ministries, another major Messianic organization. “With anti-Semitism on the rise, we want more evangelicals to be pro-Jewish and pro-Israel. Helping evangelicals see the Jewish roots of their faith is a way to open that door.”

-ibid

Yes, the flip side says that by encouraging Christians to embrace the Passover, it could actually reduce anti-Semitism in the Church. Maybe, but it seems to be re-enforcing supersessionism | replacement theology, which is hardly desirable.

The article does cite both Christian and Jewish objections to Christians holding their own seders:

A 2014 article on the website Religion Dispatches — written by a Christian and titled “Why Christians Should Not Host Their Own Passover Seders” — the author decried Christian Seders as theologically dangerous and culturally insensitive. “One of the privileges that comes with being part of the majority culture is that nobody is likely to call you out on your cultural appropriation,” the post read. “So, call yourself out. Don’t host a seder.”

And Rabbi A. James Rudin, director of interreligious affairs at the American Jewish Committee, previously denounced Christian Seders as “distorting the meaning” of the Seder by introducing Jesus into the ceremony — imposing a Christian reading onto what Rudin sees as the true Jewish narrative.

-ibid

And of course, Christians who choose to hold their own seders often aren’t really attempting to observe all the traditions of Passover:

This evangelical fascination with Passover also appears mainly focused on the Seder, just one part of the traditional Jewish observances of the holiday. Jews also abstain from eating any leavened foods for the eight days of Passover. For the most observant, the first and last two days of the holiday are spent in synagogue in prayer.

-ibid

That’s actually a good thing since there’s no actual attempt to “observe” Pesach in the Church in the manner of the Jewish people.

I’m a Gentile believer in Yeshua (Jesus) as the Jewish Messiah King, and I’m married to a Jewish wife who is not a believer.

Every year, we have our small family seder, and even though I’m not Jewish, because my wife and children are, I attend the seder and lead in the readings.

If I have my own personal interpretation of what the seder and the Passover season means to me, it is kept within the privacy of my own mind and heart.

I know there are “Messianic Gentiles” who have a more liberal view on this issue, but my perspective is born out of painful experience, both within the family and in more congregational venues.

PassoverUltimately, people will approach Passover based on their identity, beliefs, and often on their desires. I only represent my personal point of view. It’s a wonderful thing for a Gentile to be invited by a Jew to join their seder (and depending on the branch of Judaism involved, it might be forbidden to invite a non-Jew), but just remember, it’s their seder, not ours.

If we are invited now or in the age to come, it is an act of graciousness. It’s not our right to be there.

You Gave Us Messiah But Not The Torah: Dayeinu!

Dayeinu is one of the highlights of Seder experience. The tune is catchy but the words and theme are frankly bizarre. Had you taken us from Egypt but not split the sea, dayeinu, it would have been enough. Really?

If you had taken us to Mount Sinai but not given us the Torah, dayeinu, it would have been enough. Really? Don’t we talk about how the Torah is the air that we breathe, indispensable to our lives and to our very existence? Had He given us the Torah but not brought us into Israel it would have been enough. Really? Wasn’t Israel created before the world because it, the Jewish people and Torah and the three pillars upon which the world is built?

-Rabbi Efrem Goldberg
“It Would Have Been Enough, Really?”
Aish.com

I have to admit, as many times as I’ve recited or sung Dayeinu, I’ve never considered the idea if stopping short of completing all the miracles Hashem did for the Children of Israel in the Exodus would indeed have been sufficient. What if God liberated Israel from Egypt but had not split the sea? That would have been a disaster.

As Rabbi Goldberg says, for religious Jews, the Torah is the very air they breathe, and the Land of Israel was promised to the Jewish people long before they were enslaved in Egypt. How could these things not come to pass as God declared they would? How can we imagine the Jewish people without the Torah or Israel?

But what about the rest of us?

Mount SinaiI know what you’re thinking, some of you anyway. You’re thinking about the Mixed Multitude, that ragtag group of non-Israelites who accompanied the Children of Israel out of Egypt because they saw Hashem’s miracles and believed, or at least they thought this guy Moses could give them a “get out of slavery free” card, too.

You’re thinking that these Gentiles stood with Israel at Sinai and received the Torah along with God’s special and chosen people, and thus, what was done for Israel was done for Gentiles as well.

Well, yes and no.

The “Mixed Multitude” link I posted a few paragraphs above goes into it in more detail, but these Gentiles, or rather their descendants after the third generation, were fully assimilated and intermarried into Israel and the tribes, so all traces of their Gentile lineage was lost.

That practice isn’t available to non-Jews who want to join themselves to Israel today. The best we can do is either become Noahides or convert to Judaism. For those of us to call ourselves “Messianic Gentiles” or Talmidei Yeshua, a third option is to specifically accept a highly specialized understanding of the revelation of Yeshua (Jesus) as Moshiach (Messiah or “Christ”) while taking upon ourselves a lesser set of obligations than the Jewish people, and while standing alongside Israel and embracing her central role in Hashem’s plan for ultimate, worldwide redemption in the Messianic Kingdom.

Which brings me back to Dayeinu. What if God had given us the blessings of Messiah but not given us the Torah…Dayeinu…it would be sufficient.

But God did allow us, through His magnificent grace and the mercy of Messiah, to benefit from some of the blessings of the New Covenant promises but not the full obligation to the Torah mitzvot? Is that really sufficient?

Depends on your point of view.

Back in the days when I was attending a little, local Baptist church, more than once in Sunday school, I heard the teacher thankfully remark how grateful he was to not be “under the Law” and enslaved to all those spiritless rituals and practices.

sefer torahActually, he said he was grateful to “no longer be under the Law”. I’ve always wondered what Christians mean by that, since Gentiles are not born into a covenant relationship with God, and particularly not under the Sinai covenant, thus, we were never, ever “under the Law” to begin with.

I tried to argue the other side of the coin, so to speak, relative to the Jewish people, but this was a Sunday school class in a Baptist church in Idaho, so I certainly wasn’t going to convince anyone that the Torah could be “the very air Jews breathe, indispensable to their lives and to their very existence.”

There’s a reason I don’t go to church anymore.

I had considered using the “Dayeinu” message to explain that even though we non-Jews were not given the Torah as such, it would be sufficient, but then, I encountered a problem in Rabbi Goldberg’s article:

Rabbi Nachman Cohen in his Historical Haggada offers a fantastic insight. If you look at the Torah and in Psalms, chapter 106 in particular, you will notice that every stanza of dayeinu corresponds with an incredibly gracious act God did for us and our absolute ungrateful response.

Explains Rabbi Nachman Cohen, dayeinu is our reflecting on our history and repairing the lack of gratitude we exhibited in the past. Seder night we look back on our national history, we review our story and we identify those moments, those gifts from God that we failed to say thank you for. We rectify and repair our ingratitude and thanklessness through the years by saying dayeinu now. In truth, dayeinu, each of these things was enough to be exceedingly grateful for.

R. Goldberg uses examples such God taking the Israelites out of Egypt and them not being grateful (Deut. 1:27) and God feeding them with manna and them not being grateful (Numbers 11:1-6). Dayeinu then, as R. Goldberg explained above, is the Jewish effort to repair the historic lack of gratitude of the Israelites to God’s miracles during the Exodus. It’s a lesson to every Jewish child at the Passover seder to learn gratitude for all that God has done, does, and will do for Israel.

So how can I use Dayeinu as an example of it being sufficient for we Gentiles to have the blessings of the New Covenant (without being named covenant members) and not receiving the Torah or the Land of Israel along with the Jews?

humilityI do it by turning things around. I do it by pointing out our own ingratitude. A small but vocal group of non-Jews do not accept that only the Jewish people are Israel, and that only the Jewish people have it placed upon themselves as named members of just about every covenant God has ever made with human beings, the full obligation and blessings of the Torah mitzvot. They not only desire but demand full inclusion into Israel, and full obligation to the mitzvot, effectively becoming Jewish converts without a bris.

I should point out that many normative Christians, who couldn’t care less about the Torah, still believe that when Jesus returns, the Church will inherit the Land of Israel and all of the covenant promises God made with the Jewish people. The Jews however, unless they convert to (Gentile) Christianity, not so much. That’s also a lack of gratitude and humility.

And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 14:7-11 (NASB)

It is better to take the seat for the least honored and then perhaps be given more honors, than to assume you have the greatest honor and to be publicly “demoted” and thus humiliated by your “host,” that is, Messiah.

In this case, us not being Jews, and not being Israel, it really is better to say “Dayeinu,” believe that what we have is truly sufficient, and if God wants to give us more, He’ll give us more. He’ll give, but we don’t presume to just take.

Ben Zoma says, “Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot.”

-Talmud — Pirkei Avot 4:1

PassoverIt is a terrible thing to turn up your nose at the blessings and mercy of God and to demand more. We’ve seen the consequences to the Children of Israel in the Torah when they were ungrateful. If they are the natural branches of the root and could still be removed for lack of trust, how much easier is it for God to remove the ungrateful grafted in branches?

My family will be having our own wee home seder this coming Friday. While my Jewish family will be singing Dayeinu in the spirit of learning gratitude as R. Goldberg describes it, I’ll be learning to be grateful in a very different way, by accepting that what God has done for me, a non-Jew, a non-covenant member, is indeed not just sufficient, but abundant.

Dayeinu!

The Gentiles and Passover Dilemma Redux

Question: “Is it permissible for a Gentile to eat a Passover Seder meal?”

Answer: Gosh, I hope so, because I eat at my family’s Passover Seder every year.

That question was recently asked in a closed Facebook group for “Messianic Gentiles” and the moderator’s short answer was “yes”. The only prohibition would be if the Temple existed in Jerusalem, the Levitical priesthood was re-established, and the sacrifices, including those for Pesach, were resumed…and even then, that would only be a problem if the non-Jew in question were in Jerusalem for Passover.

LambThis was discussed somewhere on this blogspot in years past, and reader ProclaimLiberty (PL) basically said that if an intermarried Gentile, such as me, (or any Gentile, I suppose) were in Jerusalem with his Jewish family, he (or she) could eat of the meal except for the Pascal lamb which is reserved for the Jewish people.

For any male to eat of it, he must be circumcised, which is shorthand for “covert to Judaism”.

However, not everyone sees it that way. Here’s a comment from the aforementioned closed Facebook group discussing the topic:

OK but if Gentiles are grafted in and there is one new man and all true believers become the Israel of God…(and, no, I do not adhere to replacement theology, neither am I a two house/stick guy) doesn’t that give us a different outlook on this subject?

I say this speaking from the notion that the Passover is ultimately pointing to Christ and not simply a cultural festival for only one group of people.

If the Passover is strictly about the Exodus and God showing Himself mighty to a certain group of people then yes, I agree.

But if the Passover ultimately points to Christ then you are saying that only one group of people (culturally Jewish people) are allowed to celebrate it and not the totality of God’s people (i.e. the Israel of God).

I don’t say this to be divisive.

I am asking a serious question.

One person answered this query by stating that non-Jewish (uncircumcised) Yeshua-believers are welcome to attend the seder in Jerusalem, even once the sacrifices have been restored, and he/she could “partake of the matzah, bitter herbs, the four cups, and the whole seven-day festival…there is no prohibition except in regard to the sacrificed lamb.”

PassoverPretty much my opinion as well.

In the back-and-forth in the discussion thread, it is generally (but not universally) agreed that Gentiles can partake of the modern Passover seder, since we are without the Temple and the sacrifices, but are not to eat of the sacrificed lamb in Jerusalem in the days of the Temple (and there’s no other place to perform the sacrifices except in the Jerusalem Temple, so arguably, even in the Messianic Age, Gentiles in the diaspora can partake of the seder fully, since no lamb would be present).

The original asker cited Ephesians 2:14-19 in an attempt to invoke traditional Christian teaching to sustain a more egalitarian view of the Messiah’s work, diluting or obliterating the distinctions between Israel and the nations defined in the Torah relative to the requirement that only a circumcised (Jewish) male can eat of the lamb (and in case anyone asks, women, who can’t be circumcised as defined in Torah, must be Jewish in order to eat of the lamb as well).

The questioner lamented:

So we’re one…but not really?
We’re fellow citizens…except we’re still strangers and aliens?

This is a common complaint of some Gentiles in Messianic Jewish space, and in days gone by, I’ve made that complaint myself. But being “one” does not mean being “uniform”. It does mean that the ekklesia of Messiah is a single container that nurtures both Israel and the “people of the nations who are called by His Name” (Amos 9:12).

Then this came up:

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.

Galatians 2:11-13 (NASB)

shabbosExcept, of course, the above passage of scripture isn’t describing a Passover meal in Jerusalem, but (probably) an “ordinary” meal in which Peter felt inhibited sharing with Gentiles in the presence of (it is assumed) high-ranking Jewish members of the Messianic Council in Jerusalem who were apparently applying “peer pressure”. It’s been suggested that Paul and James (Ya’akov) disagreed about the cultural barriers (which are not found in Torah) between Jews and Gentiles, and whether or not just eating in the presence of a Gentile rendered a Jew ritualistically “unclean.”

Frankly, non-Jews are usually welcome (if invited) at most Jewish functions, including worshiping in the synagogue on Shabbat, attending an Erev Shabbat meal, attending a bar or bat mitzvah, and so on. Before my wife and I became religious, Jewish friends invited us to their Passover seders on numerous occasions. Granted, some of our friends weren’t Orthodox, but others were, so I can see a case being made for Gentiles in the current age being able to participate in many Jewish ritual activities, extending into the Messianic Age.

There are distinctions between Jews and Gentiles in the current age (including Jewish and Gentile Yeshua-believers) and I think those distinctions will continue in the Messianic Age. If there are to be any sort of “adjustments” in halachah to be made, Messiah will have to inform us of what they will be.

But even in the current age, it really depends on how closely you adhere to the halachah:

98:35 All the activities that are permitted on yom tov are only permitted for the sake of people, not for animals. The Torah tells us (Exodus 12:16), “do for yourselves” – for yourselves but not for animals. Therefore, we may not cook or carry outside for the sake of an animal just like on Shabbos. (We may add to a pot of human food for animals – Rema 412:3.) 98:36 We may not cook or bake for a non-Jew on yom tov. One who has a non-Jewish servant may add food and cook it all in one pot so that there will also be enough for the servant. (He must not specify that he is adding for the servant – Mishnah Brurah 512:11.) For an honored non-Jew, however, one may not even add. (We are concerned that one will do extra for an honored guest – see MB 512:10.) Not only that, even if the Jew cooked or baked for himself, he may not invite a non-Jew to eat with him on yom tov. One may give a non-Jew who isn’t particularly distinguished something that he cooked or baked but he may not bake a loaf even for his non-Jewish servant. (For the purposes of this halacha, an apostate Jew is the same as a non-Jew – MB 512:2.)

-Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
“Cooking for a Non-Jew on Yom Tov”
OU.org

shabbat meal
Shabbat meal, Photo: shelanu.cz

But it was also pointed out that Gentiles regularly attend Yom Tov events at Chabad and are welcome to do so.

The response was:

Sometimes there are halchot that people are much more lenient on these days, especially when kiruv is involved. I also read that in this particular halacha the concern is alleviated if the person shows up without an explicit invite. I think the underlying reason might be that Jews can cook on Yom Tov, but they can only cook for what is needed. Since a non-Jew can cook for themselves regardless of Yom Tov then a Jew should not cook for a non-Jew, but may serve them food if there are leftovers.

But the question is how or if this particular standard will be adhered to in the Messianic Age. Will this be one of the “adjustments” Messiah will make, or will he honor all halachah as it currently exists? Interesting question.

As of this writing, there’s no consensus in the closed Facebook group discussion on the matter of how restrictive or permissive Jews are or should be regarding a non-Jewish presence at a Passover seder. The most restrictive seems to be:

Another perspective that I have read about, is that since parts of the seder are done as a remembrance of the Korban Pesach some Jews will not invite gentiles to their seder or ask gentiles to not participate those parts. Just thinking off the top of my head this might include Korech and Afikomen. I am sure many people are not that strict, but it is an interesting thought.

I’ve written about Gentiles and Passover many times before, including in Passover, Messianic Judaism, and Mutual Inclusiveness and Passover for Gentiles in the Diaspora, Not in Jerusalem (the latter specifically addressing the topic of discussion going on in Facebook). And in spite of all that, I once even reblogged something about No Christian Seders, Please, but that was more specifically aimed at churches that conduct their own Passover seders rather than Christians who are guests at a Jewish seder (but of course, even President Obama conducts a Seder at the White House each year rather than being a guest of Jewish hosts).

Since my wife and kids are Jewish, I’ve got an automatic “in” at our family seder (though if my wife chooses to attend the Chabad seder, I’m definitely not invited). However, if a non-Jewish believer is to attend a seder, it should be at the invitation of Jewish hosts, and the expectation of a Gentile guest should be spelled out ahead of time relative to halachah.

Traffic ConesIt’s problematic in Messianic space to the degree that Gentile expectations can lead us down the “one new man” path a bit too far, but again, local customs should be understood ahead of time so there won’t be any surprises.

I don’t observe Easter in any sense and basically, I even shun it, so Passover is the Yom Tov in which I (silently within myself) honor Rav Yeshua’s symbolic sacrificial death and resurrection which gives us all the hope that in our Rav’s merit, we too shall share a place at the banquet of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matthew 8:11) in the world to come.

The Interwoven Passover Seder

hagadaLeader: God is my strength and my song, and God has become my triumph.

Group: And we will praise our God forever.

Leader: The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.

A Passover Haggadah

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

Psalm 118:22

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone…'”

Matthew 21:42

That kind of caught me by surprise Monday night.

But let me start at the beginning.

I went through the Haggadah several times to make sure I was familiar with the reading, using little sticky arrows to point to places I needed to skip or pay close attention to (especially where to break for the meal). Last year, I tried reading the Haggadah cold with no preparation at all and became quickly lost (where’s the part I’m supposed to read when it’s not Shabbat?). There are all kinds of songs in the Haggadah I’m not familiar with so where do I read and where do I skip and when I skip, what page do I skip to?

My son, who I commute to and from work with, had an appointment after work on Monday he forgot about, so we had to detour from the plan of getting home in plenty of time to help prepare the meal to getting home with not a lot of time to spare.

Fortunately, my other son has the week off and had spent most of the day with my wife helping her out, so when I got home, everything was under control. All I had to do was cook the chicken and pick up my daughter from work. The only hiccup I introduced was I had taken a copy of the Haggadah to work to go over it one more time before the Seder. When I showed up with it at home that evening, the missus got that “Ah ha! That’s where the other one went” look on her face, but after that, all was well.

By 7:20 that night, everything was in order. Tons and tons of food had been prepared. The formal dining room table was set. Everyone was present. We were ready.

My four-year old grandson was very patient with us. I was wondering how he’d tolerate sitting at the table for long periods of time while we were reciting from the Haggadah. Fortunately, long road trips in the van have helped him to know when and how to sit still.

And he likes matzah.

We praise You, God, Sovereign of Existence! You have called us for service from among the peoples, and have hallowed our lives with commandments. In love You have given us [Sabbaths for rest,] festivals for rejoicing, seasons for celebration,, this Festival of Matzot, the time of our freedom, a commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt. Praised are You, Lord our God, Who have us this joyful heritage and Who sanctifies [the Sabbath,] Israel, and the festivals.

-from the Haggadah

“You have called us for service from among the peoples…hallowed our lives with commandments…You have given us…the time of our freedom…Who gave us this joyful heritage and Who sanctifies [the Sabbath,] Israel…”

Remember, the family Goy is the leader of the Seder in my home and I’m the one reading all of this. I couldn’t figure out any way to read from the Haggadah and not imply that somehow I thought all this applied to me and that I was claiming to be Israel (though I’ve been acquainted with just a few Christians who call themselves “Israelites” and claim pretty much everything that’s Jewish without so much as a by your leave).

But it was more my issue than anyone else’s. I don’t think my wife or children expected me to change the text just to accommodate my “Gentile-ness.” It was really the only thing left that was bugging me about our intermarried Seder.

I decided to let it slide.

(I should say that I was feeling kind of guilty in blogging and even visiting the Internet on Tuesday morning, but I saw a significant number of Jewish believers already posting blogs and comments on Facebook, so apparently, I’m not a horrible person…in their eyes at least…for doing what I’m doing now…I guess it’s up to God to decide how He wants to respond to our online “work.”)

Then I read the quote in the Haggadah from Psalm 118 that is echoed in Matthew 21, Ephesians 2:20, and 1 Peter 2:7. I know the Haggadah wasn’t referencing any of the New Testament quotes, but remember, I said that I intended to allow the Seder to have a double meaning for me, not just addressing the traditional Passover for the Israelites, but the Messianic application as well:

And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

Luke 22:14-20

candleI admit, I didn’t have a spiritual power surge during the Seder but I had fun. I had fun in the sense of satisfaction at watching my family gather and celebrate the Seder together. I had fun watching my grandson trying to understand why Bubbe was taking him to the front door to see if someone named “Elijah” was there. I had fun watching him really, really, enjoy matzoh ball soup.

I had a feeling of warmth, like the lighting of the candles at the beginning of the reading.

I was glad to be there and participating in the “reminder” to my wife, my sons, and my daughter, that they are Jewish and that who they are and where they come from has a meaning that is unlike any other people and meaning that has ever existed or will ever exist. Even in Christianity, we are not born into a covenant. We cannot consider ourselves as having stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai to receive the Torah (although it wouldn’t hurt for us to picture ourselves standing at the foot of the cross and watching Jesus slowly die for our sins).

I did have a “light to the world” moment earlier on Monday morning at work, though. The person who sits right behind me is a very kind and gentle Catholic man. Another of the people who arrives as early to work as the two of us is a Christian woman. The subject of our conversation turned to Passover and within a few minutes, I realized that I had a captive audience, and I was explaining not only the traditional meaning of the Passover, but how I see it as a Christian, juxtaposing it against Easter.

As I’m writing this, I’m watching the “patterns” of Passover, at least in my life, weave in and out of my family, my friends, my understanding of God, taking on different colors and textures as Passover crosses from one of my worlds to the next. Passover is what it means to me as a tradition for my family. Passover is what it means to me as a Christian who acknowledges that my Lord and Savior is the Jewish Messiah King. Passover is what it means to me when, as a Christian, I share my understanding of its observance with others around me.

And in some way that is highly untraditional in the Christian and Jewish worlds, Passover is one of the bridges that crosses the gap between me and God.

So when packing my lunch this morning, among other food items, I inserted the obligatory pieces of matzah. They act, not only as nourishment, but as conversation pieces with my co-workers. They also act as reminders of the body of Christ, which was broken for me and which symbolize the Covenant that attaches me to God; a Covenant that extends directly back to Abraham.

My faith in celebrating Passover as a Christian in a Jewish family has been restored, blissfully and peacefully. Would that the upcoming Easter Sunday observance of the resurrected Messiah be as meaningful.

But that is yet to come.

A Passover Seder in Philippi

passover-artBut we went out from Pilippi after the days of the Festival of Matzot.

Ma’asei HaShlichim (Acts) 20:6

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

1 Corinthians 5:6-8 (ESV)

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (ESV)

D. Thomas Lancaster, in his Torah Club Vol. 6 commentary on Acts 20-21:14 states that Paul and his party had been trying to make it to Jerusalem for Passover, but various difficulties interrupted their trip.

Paul and the delegates immediately scuttled their plans. They did not dare board any vessel departing from Cenchrea together. They gave up hope of arriving in Jerusalem for the Passover. It was too dangerous.

-Lancaster, pg 651

But apparently, even in the days of the Second Temple, Jews in the diaspora commemorated the Passover in some fashion without traveling to Jerusalem to offer the sacrifice according to the Torah of Moses. So where was Paul for Passover that year?

Paul, Timothy, and Luke made their way backwards into Macedonia. They visited Berea and came to Thessalonica by Purim. They arrived in Philippi on (sic) time for Passover.

Paul decided to spend Passover with the believers of Philippi. The Philippians had far fewer Jews in their community than Gentiles. There simply were not many Jews in Philippi, so Paul decided to use the occasion of the feast to teach the Philippians the observances of Passover. He could teach them how to conduct a Seder according to apostolic custom in remembrance of the Master.

-Lancaster, pg 652

I’m not quite sure how Lancaster draws these conclusions, but it makes a wonderful picture of the Jewish apostle to the Gentiles teaching them a precious gift from the Master.

And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

Luke 22:14-20 (ESV)

It is unlikely that what we think of today as “taking communion” actually existed as a Christian practice in the days of Paul. It is far more likely that Paul and other apostles to the Gentiles, taught the believing God-fearing people of the nations of the Passover and the covenant of the Master that is commemorated in his body and blood on Pesach. We see in Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, that they also knew and understood the Passover language and symbolism, supporting the idea that at some point, it was relatively common for Jewish and Gentile believers to observe Passover in the diaspora together.

One can imagine the disciples in Philippi pressed in tightly around the triklinium table of Lydia the purple dealer. Over the seven days of Passover, they celebrated the resurrection of the Master together and began to count the days of the Omer leading to Shavuot.

-Lancaster, ibid

passover-art-slavery-to-freedomA few days ago, I wrote about my personal trepidation regarding the approach of Passover and the anticipation of leading a Seder with my family. I’m proceeding a little more optimistically, especially after discovering the sudden appearance of boxes of matzah in the kitchen pantry. But it’s the renewed realization of Paul and his Passover with the Gentiles in Philippi that reminds me that a Christian commemorating the Pesach isn’t just a “nice custom” for us, it’s a responsibility.

A Jewish person in Israel offered this comment on my blog:

But you have an opportunity for a fuller appreciation of it, for its additional implications for those who remember Rav Yeshua as reflected in its symbolisms. You may indeed identify with those few Egyptians who were willing to risk censure from their own people and join with the Jews who were eating lamb and matzah, and painting blood on doorposts, in order to flee with them in a mixed multitude. You may savor the metaphor of fleeing likewise from sin, having attached yourself to follow Rav Yeshua as an exemplar of Israel. If you choose not to remain in the Israeli camp throughout 40 years of desert wandering, you may settle somewhere along the way for a separate existence that nonetheless eschews idolatry and respects Torah values. I don’t really know if it was possible in that time to be intermarried, remain among Jews, and yet remain distinct by not becoming absorbed into the Jewish commonwealth. Ignoring Torah instructions in that era as some Jews did was a recipe for being destroyed in some quite unpleasant fashion. Thankfully today a non-Jew among Jews isn’t under quite the same pressure.

And today, there are believing Gentiles not only commemorating Passover with Jewish families, but leading Seders as well. I thought it appropriate to offer up this sort of “meditation” since tonight, as you read this, is Erev Pesach, and Jewish (as well as a few Christian and intermarried) families all over the world will be sitting at their tables, reciting from haggadahs, eating bitter herbs, asking four questions, and at the end of the evening, shouting with earnest desire, “Next year in Jerusalem!”

I have desired to visit Jerusalem and particularly to pray at the Kotel during my lifetime. If God is gracious and it is within His desire, then this will occur. If not, then one day in the world to come, I will offer a sacrifice at the Temple and eat at the feast of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the presence of the King.

May this Pesach meal be in honor of my Master and may I give thanks that because he gave himself, his body, his blood, his suffering, that I can turn away from sin and turn to God as a partaker of salvation and redemption, and call myself a son of the Most High.

Chag Sameach Pesach!