Friday, April 2, 2010


Most people who hear the word “Passover” know where it came from – from Exodus 12 when Yahweh was preparing for Moses to lead His people out of the land of Egypt. They have heard the story of Moses and the children of Israel.
Many of those people assume that Judaism’s Passover of today is the same thing that was given in Scripture. But is that true?

The Jewish observers have a meal called the Seder in place of the Passover meal. It has its own set of foods and rituals and is a very important part of their year. What does it involve? Can it be followed in Scripture?


Everyman’s Talmud, Abraham Cohen, page 79
“The Seder … In the course of time the Seder, or Hagaddah, as the ceremonial of Pesach night is called by the S’fardic Jews, became a religious institution, prescribed, with an exact set of written regulations.”
Wanderings, Chaim Potok, page 224
“All through the decades of the Flavian dynasty” (which started in 79 C.E.), “whose great pride had been the destruction of Jerusalem and the crushing of the Jewish rebellion, the sages of Yavneh reshaped the nature of the Jewish tradition, cutting it loose from dependence upon the Jerusalem temple and the sacrificial system. In the time of Rabban Gamaliel the text of obligatory and communal prayers was fixed. The canonization of the last of the Biblical books may have been accomplished during this period. Christians were taken to be a heretical sect, and contact with them was forbidden. It was declared that Passover could be celebrated without the sacrifice of the paschal lamb. The order, seder, of the Passover evening ritual was transformed; one could eat the unleavened bread and bitter herbs without the meat of the lamb – contrary to the clear stipulation of the Bible. A new text was developed to explain and accompany the Passover evening rituals. That text is called the Haggadah. The Passover molded at Yavneh out of the debris of the destroyed temple is still celebrated by the Jews today."
The Oxford Companion to the Bible, Bruce M Metzger and Michael D Coogan, editors, pages 572-573
“The tractate Pesahim in the Mishnah provides a description of the way that the rabbis (about 200 CE) understood Passover to have been celebrated before the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE). Many of the features reflected in Pesahim are thus characteristic of the observance at the time of Jesus, and some have continued in Jewish tradition to the present. The following elements in the celebration are noteworthy.

“The people brought their Passover animals to the Temple in the late afternoon and, because of the numbers of worshipers, were admitted to the sanctuary in three separate groups. The worshipers slaughtered their animals and the priests caught the blood and tossed it against the altar. The animals were flayed and cleaned in the Temple courtyard, with the required fat and internal portions being burned on the altar (Lev. 3:3-4). While each group was performing these functions, the Levites sang the Egyptian Hallel psalms (Pss. 113-118) and repeated them if time allowed (Pesah. 5.5-10).

“The animals were carried from the Temple precincts and cooked for the Passover meal. Cooking was done by roasting so as not to break any bone in the animal (Pesah. 7.1, 11; see Exod. 12.46; John 19.36).

“At the meal, everyone ate at least a portion of the Passover animal. The flesh was eaten along with varied herbs (Pesah. 2.6), unleavened bread, a dip (haroset) composed of pounded nuts and fruits mixed with vinegar, and four cups of wine. After the second cup, a son asked the father, ‘Why is this night different from all other nights?’ and the father instructed the son on the basis of Deuteronomy 26.5-11. Between the second and third cups, Psalm 113 (or 113-114) was sung. After the fourth cup, the Hallel was concluded. At the conclusion of the meal, the people departed, but not to join in revelry (Pesah.10.1-8).

“The people sought to celebrate the meal as if they themselves had come out of Egypt – ‘out of bondage to freedom, from sorrow to gladness, and from mourning to festival day, and from darkness to great light, and from servitude to redemption’ (Pesah.10.5).”
Jewish Literacy, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin –
Page 583 – “To commemorate the Exodus, the rabbis composed the Haggada, a small book that is read aloud at the Seder, the festive meal celebrated on Passover’s first two nights (in Israel the Seder is celebrated only on the first night).
Some parts of the Haggada quote the Torah, other parts were written some two thousand years ago, and still other parts date from the Middle Ages.”
Page 585 – “The Passover Seder combines both the religious and national aspects of Jewish identity. Even the most secular, antireligious kibbutzim in Israel conduct a Seder. Indeed, because the Seder celebrates the liberation of the Jewish slaves from Egypt, and commemorates the beginnings of the Jewish people, it appeals to the identifying nonreligious and antireligious Jews.”

Jewish Holidays, Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky and Rabbi Daniel Judson, pages 77-78

“Historically, after the Israelites settled in the Land of Israel, the holiday changed so that the sacrifice needed to occur at the Temple in Jerusalem. Passover, like Shavuot and Sukkot, is one of the shalosh regalim, three pilgrimage holidays, where Israelites were expected to go to Jerusalem to worship. Pilgrims would sacrifice a lamb on the afternoon of the fourteenth of the Hebrew month of Nisan and eat it as a part of a ritual meal that evening. This is recorded in the Gospels prior to Jesus’s crucifixion, when he travels with his disciples to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. After the destruction of the second Temple in 70 CE, the holiday changed significantly again. No longer were sacrifices practiced; prayer took its place. The focus of the holiday turned to the seder (feast) and the telling of the Exodus story from the haggadah, a text used in the celebration to guide the telling at the story.”

“Much scholarly effort has been focused on determining the precise origins of the seder and the haggadah. Seder literally means ‘order’ and refers to the entire first evening of Passover, when Jews come together to retell the story of Passover and eat a festive meal. However, there can be more than one seder during Passover. Haggadah means ‘the telling’ and refers to a book that is read by everyone together at the seder. The haggadah has songs and rituals, and at its center is a retelling of the Passover story along with a number of interpretations of the story. Scholars suggest that the origins of the haggadah were found after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. But there are aspects of the haggadah that have been added over centuries, even up to today.”

“Although it may seem surprising, the origins of the seder may have been significantly influenced by Greek culture. Upper-class Greek men attended symposia – evenings where they reclined on couches, dipped vegetables in sauces, and debated important topics. At the Passover seder, we dip vegetables in sauces, are told to recline at the table, and debate the topic of freedom. It would not be the first time that Judaism has appropriated an aspect of foreign culture and remade it as Jewish.”
Dictionary of Ancient Rabbis, Jacob Neusner, Editor –
Page 153 – “GAMALIEL II. (called also Gamaliel of Jabneh, to distinguish him from his grandfather, Gamaliel I.): The recognized head of the Jews in Palestine during the last two decades of the first and at the beginning of the second century.”

Page 155 – “Still another liturgical institution goes back to Gamaliel – that of the memorial celebration which takes the place of the sacrifice of the Passover lamb on the first evening of Passover. Gamaliel instituted this celebration (Pes. x. 5), which may be regarded as the central feature of the Pesah Haggadah, on an occasion when he spent the first Passover night with other scholars at Lydda in conversing about the feast and its customs (Tosef., Pes. x. 112).”
Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period, Jacob Neusner, Editor in Chief –
Page 242 – “Gamaliel II also known as Gamaliel of Yabneh. A grandson of Gamaliel the Elder, he followed Yohanan b. Zakkai as patriarch around 80 C.E.”
"Gamaliel’s legal statements are cited frequently in the Mishnah, and he was recognized as one of the greatest authorities of his generation. He is known for ordinances aimed at shaping Judaism in the face of the destruction of the Temple, for instance, by formulating the ritual of Passover evening (M. Pesahim 19:5) and by establishing individual prayer as normative.”
Page 266 – Haggadah of Passover book containing the liturgy and ritual for Passover Eve; a narration of the story of the exodus from Egypt, illustrated through symbolic foods and expressed through a midrashic interpretation of Deuteronomy 26:5-9. The ritual found in the Haggadah is first referred to in M. Pesahim, chapter 10, which describes a festival meal marked by a set order of foods and a required liturgy (seder). At the heart of the meal is an explanation of the significance of three foods (unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and the Passover offering) and a recitation of the Hallel-psalms. In early Amoraic times, this basic ceremony was embellished through the addition of a discussion of Israelite history. In later developments, continuing to the present, liturgical poems and other homilies have been added to the basic form set in talmudic times.”

Jewish Days, Francine Klagsbrun, pages 126-128
“… participants recline on pillows as a sign of luxury and freedom, far removed from the humble manner in which the Hebrew slaves had to eat. The Mishnah underlines the importance of this symbolism by ruling that ‘even a poor person in Israel may not eat until he reclines.’ Four glasses of wine are ritually prescribed and sanctified at the seder service, and discourse does not concern general philosophic ideas but focuses on the Haggadah and the details of the departure from Egypt.

“The seder has its own internal order; the term, in fact, means ‘order’. Before it even begins, a plate is set on the table displaying holiday symbols:
  • A roasted shank bone represents the paschal sacrifice given at the Temple, and a roasted hard-boiled egg commemorates a holiday offering made at the same time.
  • Bitter herbs, known as maror, stand for the bitterness of the slaves’ lives. Families usually use horseradish for this symbol.
  • A sticky mixture of fruit, nuts, and wine, haroset, reminds participants of the mortar the Israelites used when making bricks for Pharaoh’s buildings.
  • A vegetable such as celery or parsley, called karpas, will be dipped into salt water, symbolizing the salty tears the slaves shed.
  • Salt water or vinegar for dipping is often placed alongside the other items.
  • Three slices of matzah are set apart from the other symbols. They recall the two hallah breads used on the Sabbath and festivals, with the addition of the third matzah for Passover.
“Early in the ceremony, the leader breaks the middle matzah, wraps it in a napkin, and hides it to be used as the afikoman, the dessert, or final dish eaten. Traditionally, the children ‘steal’ the afikoman and bargain with the adults for its return, for the seder may not be concluded without it – a technique designed to keep the young engaged.

“A more serious form of engaging the young – and the older – is through questions and discussions revolving around the Haggadah. The obligation to the question has its roots in the biblical verse ‘and when your children ask you, what do you mean by this rite? You shall say…’ (Exodus 12:26). A child symbolically fulfills that obligation for all present by reciting the four questions, the Mah Nishtanah.

“Ritually, the answers to the children’s questions come from reading the Haggadah together. In reality, a child or grownup seeking direct responses to queries will never find them here. Instead the text meanders, from the story of Israel’s slavery and its even-earlier worship of idols, to anecdotes about various sages, to the recitation of the ten plagues and a description of Egypt’s defeat.

“Toward the end of the evening, after the meal has been eaten, the grace recited, and a third cup of wine drunk, a participant opens the front door. All others stand and recite the words, ‘Pour out Your wrath upon the nations that know You not…for they have devoured Jacob’ (Psalm 79:6-7). They are harsh words, probably composed after the destruction of the Second Temple and added to the Haggadah during the Crusades in the eleventh century to express the harshness of Israel’s sufferings and its anger at those who would persecute and enslave it.

“Throughout the seder proceedings, Elijah’s cup, filled with wine, stands in the middle of the seder plate. The rabbis disagreed on whether four or five cups of wine should be drunk at the seder. The compromised by having four cups but including a fifth – Elijah’s cup – filled but not drunk.

“But the cup symbolizes more. Legend says that when the door is opened for the recitation of ‘Pour out Your wrath,’ the prophet Elijah comes through it to visit every Jewish home. In folklore, he will punish those enemies who have caused Israel pain. In rabbinic thought, he will announce the arrival of the Messiah. So while children watch his cup to see whether it is being invisibly drained of wine, adults view the filled cup as a beacon of possibilities, the promise of future redemption that will complete the redemption of the past.”

From an article “The Eggs and the Exodus” –
“The Torah does not command us to eat an egg, or to stare at one during the Passover meal. The egg is mentioned briefly in the Talmud as part of the festive menu, but without attaching any distinctive value to it, let alone ordaining a place of honor on the seder plate.”

“Among more recent interpreters the view has taken hold that the meat at the table comes to represent the Passover service, while the egg represents the pilgrimage sacrifice. This notion was a departure from the earlier and more logical view that used meat to symbolize both sacrifices. The commentators were hard put to find any meaningful connection between an egg and an animal offering.”

“Truly, the tenacity with which our egg has insinuated itself into the Passover ceremony seems unrelated to any of the symbolic or halakhic explanations that have been proposed for its presence. In such cases one is strongly tempted to ascribe the phenomenon to foreign influences.”

“An obvious suspect would be the Christian practice of handing out colored eggs in connection with the Easter holiday which occurs at the same season of the year. To be precise, the Easter egg itself is a curious holdover from pre-Christian celebrations that survived in popular European custom.”

“And yet, to be honest, there were localities in Poland where it was customary for Jews to ‘go for a vikup’ during Passover. The practice (the Yiddish expression is related to a Polish word meaning ‘ransom’) involved paying a visit to relatives, and receiving from the colored eggs, especially ones that were tinted yellowish-red with the help of a special formula fashioned from onion skins.”

“In some Hasidic circles, including the Karlin and Lubavitch sects, the distribution of painted eggs took place later in the season, on Lag Ba’omer.”

“However, it is not only in Europe that Jews were drawn to coloured eggs. In Afghanistan, the eggs made their ritual appearance earlier in the season, and were associated with the Purim festivals. Throughout the month of Adar it was the custom there to roll the eggs, to see whose could keep going the longest without breaking. For each egg that did get crushed in the competition, the children would curse Haman. In Kurdistan, coloured eggs were included in the Mishloah manot that were distributed to children on Purim.”
The Talmud, the Steinsaltz Edition, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz –
Page 163 – Arbah Kosot “Lit., four cups. The obligation, based on a Rabbinic enactment, to drink four cups of wine at the Seder service on the first two nights of the Passover Festival (in Israel, on the first night). Every Jew, even a poor man or one who has difficulty drinking wine, in enjoined to fulfill this precept.”

Page 223 – Mahrohr “Bitter herbs. By Torah law, the Paschal sacrifice that was eaten on the first night of Pesah had to be eaten together with matzah and bitter herbs (Exodus 12:8). Now that the Passover sacrifice is no longer offered, the requirement to eat bitter herbs on Pesah night is only of Rabbinic authority.”
The Jewish Festivals, Hayyim Schauss, page 295
“Exod. 12:17. The sense of this passage is that the Jews were to guard the feast of matzos. Instead, Jews took it literally as an injunction to guard the matzos themselves. However, the role of the afikomon in the folk-belief is still obscure, and there is no clear explanation for the fact that magic power is ascribed to it and it is used as a form of charm. Isidor Schftelowitz is of the opinion that the afikomon acts as a talisman in the folk-belief because it is a left-over from a food that had been used at a religious ceremony, and therefore has magic power. This, however, does not explain why just the afikomon is used in this manner, and not the left-overs from any other religious feast.”
Jewish Holidays, Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky and Rabbi Daniel Judson, page 85
“Afikoman is derived from a Greek word meaning ‘after procession,’ used to describe a special piece of matzah hidden away near the beginning of the seder by one of the adults and searched for toward the end of the seder by the children. Whoever finds it is given a prize. After the finding and eating of the afikoman, there is no more eating of food at the seder. The afikoman is a substitute for the sacrificial lamb that was commanded to be the last thing eaten on Passover night when sacrifices still occurred.”
  1. Who designed this celebration?
  2. Is this celebration Scriptural?
  3. Who wrote the Haggadah?
  4. What do folklore and tradition have to do with Yahweh’s festivals?
  5. How do four glasses of wine come into the picture? There was none mentioned at the original Passover.
  6. Where did the idea of haroset arise?
  7. What does Yahweh say about magic? Yet it is sometimes attributed to the Afikoman.
  8. Could the egg have come from pagan ideas? (It is an interesting study that is discussed in our article on Easter as well.)
  9. How does keeping this seder celebration honor Yahweh?
  10. Who wrote the Mishnah and the Talmud? Are they really equivalent to Yahweh’s word?
  11. Why would they include Elijah? He is no longer living. He can do nothing for them.
  12. If someone has difficulty drinking wine, why put such a stringent rule of a set number of glasses on such a person?
  13. Why look to what the pagans did (such as the Greek symposia) to determine your own rules?
  14. Is this an observance of what was supposed to be done or simply a commemoration of what they have taught and believed, interpreted and added to?

It is very clear that the rituals of the Seder are not from Scripture, and have instead replaced Passover. How does Yahweh look at this? Is He pleased?

Deuteronomy 4:2 You shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall you diminish ought from it, that you may keep the commandments of Yahweh your Elohim which I command you.

Deuteronomy 12:32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it.

Proverbs 30:5-6 5-Every word of Elohim is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. 6-Add you not unto his words, lest he reprove you, and you be found a liar.

Revelation 22:18-19 18-For I testify unto every man that hears the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, Elohim shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19-And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, Elohim shall take away his pat out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

(The Scriptures quoted are from The Interlinear Bible, a literal translation by Jay P. Green, Sr., as general editor and translator, with the transliterated Hebrew names of the Father and Son, Yahweh and Yahshua inserted-ed.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Baruck HaShem Yah!
Ephraim D'Angelo