Passover is largely about Egypt; Easter is largely about Passover. – Rabbi Ismar Schorsch
Each year Jewish families retell and experience anew the Exodus through the Seder. From the Hebrew word meaning “order,” the Seder is a formal festival meal that has an entirely different focus and purpose than any other meal of the year. The Seder is to be held on the first night of the Passover observance – this year, on Monday evening, April 10th. (The Feast of Unleavened Bread continues for an additional seven nights, though the entire 8 day grouping is generally known as Passover.)
After the destruction of the temple in AD 70, Passover became a home-centered observance. A written order of service, called a Haggadah (meaning “telling”), is how Seder participants remember and participate in the Exodus story. All five senses are involved: There are elements to see; a story, songs and prayers to hear; and ceremonial foods to taste and touch. Everyone from youngest to oldest is involved as the story is retold, following certain forms and including specific prayers, songs, and Scripture readings.
The Seder’s foundation for the gift of communion gives it an essential place as a teaching tool in the life of a follower of Jesus. Some Christians have made some form of a Seder meal part of their holy week observances, often on Maundy Thursday (April 13th this year). Others have made it part of their family’s life and worship each year. Many Churches invite in organizations like Jews for Jesus or Chosen People to offer a “demonstration Seder” that emphasizes how Jesus celebrated his final Passover with his disciples, and fulfilled it wholly in himself.
In my ongoing journey through the year, I’ve been posting a bit of information about each major holy day or season in the Jewish and Christian year – along with a “to try” and “to eat”. I’ve discovered many people are interested in being more intentional about learning about the these sacred calendars, but don’t quite know where to start. I’m very happy I can commend a resource that offers a thoughtful historical and devotional overview of each calendar, but also know that many people feel as through attempting to participate will be a pile-on of extra stuff to do (and extra guilt to feel if they can’t do it).
Normally, I attempt to keep my “to discover” suggestion simple, but I do want to nudge you to attend a Seder if you have the opportunity. I also recognize that at this late date, you might not have a ready opportunity to do so. You may want to bookmark Amazon’s page offering Haggadahs written from a Messianic Jewish perspective. I haven’t reviewed them all, but am familiar with the one written by the Rubins and the one created by Jamie-Sue Wertheim and Susan Perlman, and can commend them to you as a good starting place in case you want to try a Seder in the future. I promise – you will never experience communion in the same way again once you’ve participated in a Seder.
All of that to say, one simple thing you can do right now, right where you are to connect with the Passover story is to immerse yourself in Scripture. Skip the Charlton Heston movie and read Exodus 1–15. Then see how Jesus participated in this major Jewish feast by reading Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, Luke 22:7-23, and John 13–17.
For a bit of additional reading about Passover:
The big food prohibition at Passover is to avoid foods with leavening agents in them. (See Exodus 12:17-20.) Inventive cooks have come up with all sorts of leaven-free Passover substitutions and “only for Passover” recipes. My favorite is a recipe so good it transcends Passover. The name will tell you everything you need to know about why this toffee treat is so addictive.
- 4 to 6 sheets of matzo (Note: If you’re keeping a “kosher for Passover” home, you will need to use matzo that’s labeled for Passover use)
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or “kosher for Passover” margarine
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed
- 12 ounces dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips (and yes, there are “kosher for Passover” chocolate chips. Leaven-free is a serious business!)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and/or toppings of your choice, such as pecan pieces.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 12″ x 17″ rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Make sure the entire sheet and sides of pan are covered, and the foil is tightly fitted to its contours. Cover the bottom of the pan with matzo, fitting pieces to fill without overlapping them.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until it is melted. Add the brown sugar, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes a rich nut-brown color in about 4-5 minutes. Add vanilla off the heat, then quickly pour the mixture over the matzo.
Bake the matzo for 5-10 minutes until brown sugar mixture begins to bubble and matzo begins to brown. Remove from oven, and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Wait 2 minutes, then spread the chocolate evenly with a spatula across the surface of the matzo. Sprinkle lightly with salt and the topping of your choice (I like them without the extra stuff on top!), then refrigerate until the chocolate sets and hardens. Break apart matzo into chunks.
You can store them in a sealed container, but I doubt they’ll last long at your home or workplace. They are “crack” after all – and are delicious all year `round.