This is the Passover Hagada (Telling) for Congregation Shema Yisrael:
SHEMA’S PASSOVER SEDER
PREPARING FOR PASSOVER
BEDIKAT CHAMETZ: THE SEARCH FOR LEAVEN
Special preparations need to be made before we begin our observance of Passover. Before we celebrate the Passover meal, we are instructed to remove all the leaven from our houses, as it is written: “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.” So, on the day before Passover, after we have searched for and removed all the leaven from our homes, we pray this prayer to make sure that our homes are thoroughly cleansed of all leaven:
All leavened bread and leavening that is in my possession, whether I have observed it or not observed it, whether I have searched it out or not searched it out, shall be rendered null and accounted valueless as the dust of the Earth. Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us concerning the removal of leavened bread.
Why would eating anything with leaven be so severely punished to the extent that one would be cut off from God’s covenant people? The answer lies in the fact that Passover is a holiday rich in symbolism, and leaven is used throughout the Scriptures as a symbol for sin. In ancient times, before a batch of leavened dough was baked into bread, part of the dough was pinched off and set aside. Later that piece of leavened dough was added to a new batch of flour, leavening the new batch. This symbolizes the devastating and destructive cycle of sin, which began with our first parents, Adam and Eve.
Very early in human history, Adam and Eve sinned against our Creator by joining the rebellion of the fallen angels. Sin, confusion, chaos and domination by the real and deadly forces of Satan, sin, and death followed their rebellion and took control of humanity. Adam and Eve were alienated from the Creator. When He appeared in the garden, instead of coming to God, Adam and Eve avoided Him and hid among the trees. Their relationship with God, who is the source of life, was damaged; and every aspect of their humanity was affected. Their bodies, souls, wills, minds and spirits – all were corrupted. Adam and Eve were not allowed to eat from the Tree of Life and were exiled from the delightful Garden of Eden. Instead of being headed to life, they were headed to death, the First Death – physical death – followed by the Second Death, which is Gehenna, Hell, the Lake of Fire.
Their corrupted nature and doomed future were transmitted to all the following generations – like leavened dough is pinched off and added to a new batch leavening the new batch, and then leavened dough from that new batch is pinched off and added to yet another new batch. All of humanity is alienated from the good and holy Creator; dead in our trespasses and sins; cursed with a fallen nature; unable to save ourselves; unable to give ourselves a new, godly nature.
Satan and the fallen angels are real. Sin is a real and powerful force; and it is ruinous and deadly. Our corrupt, fallen, sin nature is very real; and it is ruinous and deadly. But the good news is that the power of sin and our corrupt nature can be overcome! We can become new human beings – new men and women who have a new nature, a nature that rejects rebellion against God, a new nature that loves God and wants to please God, serve God, live for God, resist sin and do what God wants. Rabbi Paul used this ceremony of removing leaven from the home to teach us the need for and the possibility of breaking this cycle of sin and the sin nature that has been transmitted from generation to generation when he wrote the following to Messiah’s Community at Corinth: “Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch – as you really are. For Messiah, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the holiday, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” We must not allow sin to rule in our lives fulfilling its desires. Just as we systematically cleanse our homes of leaven in order to celebrate the Passover, so too we must search our hearts asking God to reveal and remove any sin from our lives in order that we may break the cycle of sin and enjoy all the blessings that come from Messiah, our Passover lamb and true Matza, who has made it possible to conquer Satan, sin, the sin nature and death!
THANKING GOD FOR KEEPING US ALIVE
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִיְעָנוּ לַזְמַן הַזֶה!
Baruch Atah Adonai Elohaynu Melech ha’olam, she-heh-cheh-ya-nu v’kee-y’mah-nu v’hi-gee-yah-nu laz-man ha-zeh!
Blessed are You O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has kept us in life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this season!
LIGHTING THE PASSOVER CANDLES
It’s appropriate that the woman lights the candles that bring light to the Passover celebration. It reminds us that Messiah is the “Seed of the Woman” and the Light of the World who will overcome the powers of darkness and restore truth and life.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּיֵשׁוּעַ הַמָשִׁיחַ אוֹר הָעוֹלָם וּפֶּסַח שֶׁלָנוּּּּּּּּּּּּּּ
Baruch Atah Adonai Elohaynu Melech ha’olam, asher kidshanu b’Yeshua HaMashiach, Or ha’olam u’Pesach shelanu.
Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who sanctified us in Yeshua the Messiah, the Light of the World and our Passover Lamb.
KIDDUSH: SANCTIFICATION, THE FIRST CUP
Wine is a symbol of joy since wine makes glad the heart of man. During the Seder we will drink four cups of wine. Each cup has its own name and meaning. Let’s begin our Passover meal by thanking God for the Cup of Sanctification and praying that this meal will be set apart to accomplish His purposes.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן.
Baruch Atah Adonai Elohaynu Melech ha’olam, Boray p’ree hagafen.
Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.
URCHATZ: WASHING THE HANDS
It’s traditional to wash our hands before the Passover food is eaten. At His Last Supper, which was a Passover Seder, Messiah was aware the Father had put everything in His power and that He had come from God and was returning to God. So Yeshua rose from the table, removed His outer garment, and wrapped a towel around His waist. Then He poured some water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples and wipe them off with the towel wrapped around Him. He said to them, “If I, your Lord and Rabbi, have washed your feet, you should also wash each other’s feet. For I have set you an example so that you may do as I have done to you.” Knowing that He had been given all authority in Heaven and on Earth and He had eternally shared the glory of God and would soon return to again share God’s glory, Messiah acted as a servant and washed the feet of His disciples. He set for all time the supreme example of servanthood and humility. Let us now wash our hands.
Passover is observed in the spring when the Earth is green with life, and so the karpas represents life. We dip it into salt water, which represents tears, and eat it. This reminds us that during our enslavement in Egypt, we shed many tears. The karpas can also represent hyssop – the plant that was dipped into the blood of the Passover lamb that was applied to the doorposts of our houses in Egypt.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַאֳדָמָה.
Baruch Atah Adonai Elohaynu Melech ha’olam, Boray p’ree ha’adamah.
Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the ground.
YACHATZ: DIVIDE THE MIDDLE MATZA
Why do we have a matzatash that contains three pieces of matza in one bag? Why are they separated from one another by a piece of cloth? Why do we take the middle piece out, break it in half, put one half back in the matzatash, wrap the other half in a cloth and hide it? Some say that the three pieces of matza in one bag represent the priests, the Levites and Israel. Another interpretation is that the three represent Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But it’s obvious that this matza does not represent the priests, the Levites and Israel nor Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Why would we break the Levites or Isaac in half? As Messianic Jews and kosher-hearted Christians, we can see a greater Three-In-One: God the Father (whom no one has seen); Messiah Yeshua, the Son of God (who reveals God to us); and the Holy Spirit (whom no one has seen)!
The middle matza reminds us of Messiah. It is the one that is removed from the middle of the matzatash, just as the Son of God was the One who came from Heaven and was revealed on Earth. It is unleavened just as Yeshua lived a perfectly sinless life. Matza is called the “bread of affliction” because we were driven out of Egypt under duress and hastily so that there wasn’t time for our bread to rise. In a similar manner, Messiah was afflicted. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Just as one half of the matza is put back in the matzatash and the other half, the afikomen, is wrapped up and hidden, so Messiah was wrapped in graveclothes and hidden in a tomb. It’s likely that this ceremony about the maztatash and the middle matza, which so clearly points to Yeshua, was developed by the early Messianic Jews.
MA NISHTANAH: THE FOUR QUESTIONS
Passover provides a yearly opportunity to teach our children God’s plan of redemption. It is written in the Torah: “You shall observe this service. And it will come about when your children will say to you, ‘What does this service mean to you?’ that you shall say, ‘It is the Passover service to the Lord.’” To make sure that the children fulfill this Scripture, the youngest son asks four questions.
מַה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכָּל הַלֵּילוֹת? שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכלִין חָמֵץ וּמַצָּה. הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלּוֹ מַצָּה? שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכלִין שְׁאָר יְרָקוֹת. הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מָרוֹר? שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אֵין אָנוּ מַטְבִּילִין אֲפִילוּ פַּעַם אֶחָת. הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה שְׁתֵּי פְעָמִים? שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכלִין בֵּין יוֹשְׁבִין וּבֵין מְסֻבִּין. הַלַּיְלָה הַזּה כֻּלָּנוּ מְסֻבִּין?
Ma nish-ta-nah ha-lie-lah ha-zeh mi-kol ha-lay-lot? She-b’chol ha-lay-lot ah-nu och-leen cha-metz u’matza. Ha-lie-lah ha-zeh ku-lo matza? She-b’chol ha-lay-lot ah-nu och-leen sh’ar y’ra-kot. Ha-lie-lah ha-zeh ma-ror? She-b’chol ha-lay-lot ayn ah-nu mat-bee-leen a-fee-lu pa’am eh-chat. Ha-lie-lah ha-zeh sh’tay f’ah-meem? She-b’chol ha-lay-lot ah-nu och-leen bayn yosh-veen u’vayn m’su-been. Ha-lie-lah ha-zeh ku-lah-nu m’su-been?
Why is this night different from all other nights?
- On all other nights we eat either leavened or unleavened bread; why on this night do we only eat unleavened bread?
- On all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables; why on this night must we eat bitter herbs?
- On all other nights we do not even dip our food once; why on this night do we dip it twice?
- On all other nights we eat either sitting or reclining; why on this night do we only recline?
The answer to the last question is that we recline in contrast to our ancestors, who ate the first Passover Seder in haste, with their waists belted, their shoes on their feet, their staffs in their hands and ready to make a hasty departure. That night we were slaves. Slaves don’t recline while eating. However, God freed us that first Passover. Since we are no longer slaves and no longer need to make a hasty departure from Egypt, we purposely do the opposite – we recline while leisurely observing the Passover.
THE FOUR SONS
Just as there are four cups of wine and four questions, so too there are four kinds of sons. Each son requires a response that is best suited to him.
What does the wise son say? He asks: “What are these testimonies, statutes and judgments which the Lord our God has commanded you?” Since he is genuinely interested in learning the truth and performing it, you shall instruct him in the laws of the Passover.
What does the wicked son say? He asks: “What do you mean by this service?” The question is similar, but the intent is different. By emphasizing the word “you” he makes it clear that he does not consider himself to be part of the Jewish community. He no longer wishes to be identified with God’s Chosen People. Therefore, the proper response to him is to answer, “This is done because of what the Lord did for me when I went forth from Egypt – for me and not for you, because if you had been there but refused to identify yourself with Israel, you would not have been redeemed.”
What does the simple son say? He asks: “What is this?” Because he is limited in his abilities, the simple son asks a simple question. Since he genuinely wants to know, you shall give him a simple answer and tell him: “With a mighty hand did the Lord bring us forth from Egypt, from the house of slavery.”
But even for the son wh