The original Seder
MY FAMILY is Christian, although my husband is a Messianic Jew. We don’t often celebrate the Jewish holidays, but sometimes we enjoy doing it. There is no Biblical mandate for Christians to keep the Jewish feasts and fasts, as Christ came “to fulfill the law” (Matthew 5:17), but there’s no reason not to if you want to. This year, we will hold a Christian Seder meal to celebrate Passover, which falls in 2015 on Easter. Resurrection Day is my most favorite day of the whole year, when our salvation was secured over 2,000 years ago.
Passover is a commemoration of the time when God freed the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and brought the famous ten plagues down on Pharaoh who refused to let the people go. You probably know the story, but if you don’t, now would be a good time to read up on it. You’ll find the story in Exodus in the Bible. The story includes the favorite part of Moses parting the Red Sea so that the Israelites could cross on dry land, and then bringing the sea crashing down to drown Pharaoh’s army when they tried to follow.
Here’s a cheat sheet to the order of the Seder. I hope you decide to join us this year and remember the roots of our faith as we celebrate the deliverance of God’s people from slavery to Egypt and slavery to sin.
A traditional Seder table.
Seder service order
KADESH – the Benediction
With the first of four cups of wine, we recite the kiddush. We are reclining to eat the whole meal.
Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth the fruit of the vine. Amen.
URCHATZ – Purification
Our hands are washed in the ritually correct way, but without reciting the blessing. This is because the next step is dipping the karpas, which is done without utensils.
KARPAS -the Appetizer
Although it may not seem particularly appetizing, a piece of boiled potato or onion are the appetizer, which we dip in salt water, after saying the blessing over the vegetables.
Praised are you, Adonai, Ruler of the Universe, who brings forth the fruit of the earth. Amen.
The salt water symbolizes the tears of the Jews in Egypt.
YACHATZ – Breaking the Matzah
Three pieces of matzah are used during the Seder. They have piercings and stripes on them which remind us of the pierced hands and feet and stripes on the body of Jesus. Two pieces are left whole and one is broken in half, symbolizing Jesus’ body, broken for us. Half of it is hidden inside a napkin, symbolizing Jesus’ burial. It is saved to become the afikoman, or last morsel eaten.
MAGGID – the Haggadah
At this point, the Seder tray is moved aside and the poor are invited in to join the family. A second cup of wine is drunk.
Now comes the most interesting part of the Seder ceremony, the haggadah or telling of the Exodus story. The story includes a brief history of the Jews, the time of their slavery in Egypt, the plagues and the miracles God did on their behalf.
Traditionally, the youngest child asks four questions about why the family is celebrating this day in this particular way, and you must know the story to answer the questions. This is how the traditions were passed from generation to generation, as each child at one point is the youngest. Here are the four questions:
1. On all other nights we eat leavened or unleavened bread; why on this night do we eat only unleavened bread?
2. On all other nights we eat all kinds of herbs; why on this night only bitter herbs?
3. On all other nights we do not dip our herbs even once; why on this night do we dip them twice?
4. On all other nights we eat either sitting up or reclining; why on this night do we all recline?
The answers to these questions can be found in Exodus 13:14.
ROCHTZAH – the Washing before the Meal
After the second cup of wine is drunk comes the traditional washing of the hands, along with the customary blessing in thanks for bread.
Blessed are you, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the ground. Amen.
MOTZI MATZAH – the Eating of the Matzah
Hold all three pieces of the matzot together, with the broken one between the two whole ones. Let the bottom matzah fall back onto the plate and recite the special prayer over them.
[God] who has sanctified us with His commands and commanded us to eat matzah.
Then, breaking off at least an ounce of each matzah, eat them together.
MAROR -the Bitter Herbs
Break off at least an ounce of the bitter herbs and dip it in charoset, shake it off, and eat it while standing. This symbolizes that the Jews had to be ready to flee in a moment, that there was no time to sit down to a meal (which is also why the bread is unleavened, besides the fact that leaven represents sin). Bless the herbs by saying [God] who sanctifies us by His commandments and has commanded us to eat bitter herbs.
KORECH – the Sandwich
Once again reclining, break off at least two ounces of the bottom matzah and make a sandwich with the bitter herbs between the one ounce pieces of matzah and eat it.
SULCHAN ORECH – the Feast
Now the feast begins, starting with hard boiled eggs dipped in salt water. This is a festive time and many delicious foods are served. Next week, I’ll post a list of recipes for your Seder meal.
TZAFUN – Finding the Matzah
After the feast, the children search for the afikoman, the half matzah that an adult may have hidden for this part of the Seder, or it is taken out of the napkin wherein it was wrapped, and eaten. This half of the matzah represents the risen Christ. (In Jewish culture, it represents the sacrificed Passover lamb, which Christ is!) It is the last thing eaten, and nothing else will be eaten or drunk except the last two cups of wine.
Here’s where the Christian Seder departs from the Hebrew one, because the last two cups of wine are drunk in anticipation of Elijah and the Messiah. Since Jesus said Elijah had already come in John the Baptist and Jesus is Himself the Messiah, we drink the wine in anticipation of Christ’s return, saying blessings and ending our feast with singing praise songs to God.
Next week I’ll post some Passover foods, and the week after suggestions for decorating. The final week, I’ll post children’s games and crafts.