Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Festivals of God - Pt. 4 Passover (cont.)

The two important items that need to be discussed are the wine and the unleavened bread/matzo or aphikomen. First we will address the wine. Nowhere in Scripture is the use of wine commanded. The Paschal lamb, bitter herbs and unleavened bread were the only requirements, and yet by the time of Christ, somehow those four cups of wine had apparently made their way into the seder ritual. Now it is not unreasonable to understand that wine was a drink of the people, as the grapes had to be preserved somehow, so the drink of the day would be wine, and it was definitely used at special occasions such as the festivals, weddings, etc. (and probably daily too, as water was not safe to drink without a little wine added in to purify it.) What is a mystery is to the use of four cups, the significance of each, and the way each is a ritualistic part of the ceremony, not just something to drink. What is also interesting is that it has to be red wine. Today the four cups of wine for the celebration of the Passover, or Seder, are actually mandatory. No Jew can keep the Passover without them. Why not? Because Jesus said, “Drink ye all of it.” Even if they don't realize it. Even further, The Shulchan Aruch (Jewish Book of Rules) instructs that the wine has to be red. Why? Because Jesus said, “This is my blood which is shed for the remission of sins.” Again, they are unaware. And it is to be warmed also. Blood is warm. We can see the significance ascribed to them in relation to Christ’s sacrifice, but the Jews cannot, so it is a puzzle as to how it made its way into the Jewish ritual so that when Christ celebrated His Last Supper, he was able to make the new connection to his blood being sacrificed. Also is the significance that it is attached to Elijah announcing the coming of the Messiah, which indeed was the case. The Messiah had come.

The next item is the unleavened bread/matzo or aphikomen. The unleavened bread of ancient times was flat, round, and irregular in shape. Nowadays they use the typical matzos that you find in the store. The matzo symbolizes the Paschal lamb. It is encased in a special container called a matzo tash, which is a square, white, silk bag that is divided into three compartments to hold three matzo wafers which sit prominently on the seder table. Why three? Some Jewish scholars see them as symbolic of the three divisions of the Jewish people: Priests, Levites, and Israelites. Others see them as a reminder of the three Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The middle matzah, the one broken, the one symbolizing the Passover Lamb, would correspond to Isaac. How interesting that Isaac, the miraculously born son of Abraham, was taken to what would become the Temple Mount to be offered as a sacrifice. We can see that the true meaning of the three are the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, with the Son (the Passover Lamb) being represented by the middle matzo. The aphikomen itself is a half-piece of matzo that has been broken in the early part of the seder and set aside to eat as dessert after the meal (or after the actual sweet desserts). The aphikomen is prepared after the first dipping of herbs into the salt water. During this ritual, the leader of the seder takes the middle piece of matzo out from the stack of three whole matzo on the seder table. He breaks the matzo in two, (Jesus was “broken” for our sins) returning the smaller piece to the stack and putting aside the larger piece to be eaten later during the part of the seder which immediately follows the main meal and just before the third cup of redemption. This is the aphikomen, which is wrapped in a napkin before being hidden (or another word commonly and interestingly used to describe it - buried, just like Christ was buried) by the host. In some families there is a custom of having the children either “steal” it and demand a reward for it or search for it and get a reward for finding it (bringing it back or resurrecting it) , when it is time to eat it. After the meal and desserts, the host breaks the aphikomen into pieces and gives a piece to each guest at which time they say, “In memory of the Passover sacrifice”. (“Take eat this is my body; This is my body which is given for you, do this in remembrance of me.”) If there is not enough to go around, more matzos can be used.) A quarter-sized piece of matzo is be eaten to fulfill the requirement of eating the aphikomen. Many people eat a second quarter-sized piece. The first piece commemorates the Paschal lamb whose meat was the last thing allowed to be eaten at the seder in the days of the temple. The second piece commemorates the matzo that was eaten with the lamb in the days of the temple in fulfillment of the Torah commandment “And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread, and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.” Ex. 12:8. According to the rules, the aphikomen must be eaten before midnight, just as the lamb was to be consumed before midnight (the lamb was to be consumed before morning, and midnight brings morning). After eating the aphikomen, no other food is to be eaten for the rest of the night (just like with the Paschal lamb) other than the wine and any other beverage. According to the Shulchan Aruch (Jewish book of rules) the aphikomen is to be treated with special regard and eaten at the close of the seder with special reverence, because, it says, it represents the Passover Lamb which was eaten at the close of the meal. As things now stand, it is no longer the Passover Lamb which constitutes the main feature of the Jewish Passover, but the bread (aphikomen) and the wine. This marks a radical departure from the feast initiated by Moses. What was the cause of this departure? Who substituted the matzo for the Passover Lamb? Who made the wine an essential part of the seder? Why should it be red like blood? Any Christian can tell you that the Jewish Passover is now (unknown to Jews) being celebrated as the Lord’s Supper the way the Lord instituted it. Every time a Jewish person celebrates the Passover, he is actually celebrating the Lord’s Supper until He comes. Ironic, isn’t it? One has to wonder how God made it come about. God’s sense of irony in action, I guess.

Why is this final piece of matzo called the aphikomen? It appears to be a Greek word, and most scholars agree it is, although it is curious to find a Greek word in the middle of a Hebrew feast (unless you consider that Greek was the major world language at the time of Christ, which is when this probably came into being). The problem is, most scholars cannot agree as to its meaning. Some say it comes from the word Epikomos (a stretch to see it turning into aphikomen) and means dessert. Others say there is a Greek definition which means “that which is coming” which they also take as being dessert (looking forward to dessert “which is coming” after the meal).Others take it to mean “he who is coming” based on the Jewish tradition that Messiah would come at Passover to bring redemption, which is why they have the place set for Elijah (who announces the Messiah’s coming). There is another definition which is more satisfactory. The word referred to reads the same as the word aphikomen and means “I came”. This is the most applicable meaning as Jesus did come.

As to how all of this made its way into the Jewish seder, I found online a possible answer. The Jewish Passover in its original form was one outlined by a man named Hillel. Hillel (110BC-10AD) was a famous Jewish religious leader, one of the most important figures in Jewish history. He is associated with the development of the Mishnah and the Talmud. Renowned within Judaism as a sage and scholar, he was the founder of the House of Hillel school for Tannaim (Sages of the Mishnah) and the founder of a dynasty of Sages who stood at the head of the Jews living in the land of Israel until roughly the fifth century of the Common Era. This was the Passover that was being observed in Israel before the destruction of the temple. After Christ instituted the new Passover (Lord’s Supper) the Jewish followers of Christ would observe the Passover as it was observed the night of the Lord’s Supper. A complete original Passover with the new elements added. When the temple was destroyed, there was no way to continue observing the original Passover without the lamb, and the only Passover left, was the one the Lord instituted, but without the actual lamb as the meal. The void of having no sacrificial lamb to be the center and main focus of the seder forced the Jews to turn to another option in order to preserve their traditions and survive as a nation. (Remember Fiddler on the Roof and how the song speaks about traditions and their importance in keeping them a people?) The Passover had to be changed to one that wasn’t tied to the temple and priesthood, as they no longer existed. The only Passover tradition left was that of the followers of Jesus. This answered the purpose of the Jewish leaders (who were Kaballah and not above inserting stuff into Judaism anyhow). They therefore incorporated it into their religion, changing the symbolism enough to not refer to Christ and adapting it to suit their purposes. What they couldn’t eliminate is the original meanings and obvious connection to the Last Supper. So while the true meanings remain hidden to the Jews, they celebrate the Lord’s Supper every Passover.

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