PASSOVER - Pesakh - Hag HaMatzot
The number four plays a significant role in Judaism.
There are the four species of vegetables for Sukkot; four kingdoms in the book of Daniel; four Torah portions in the tefillin;* four Matriarchs. At Passover, we find
this number in abundance. In the course of the Seder we have four sons, four
cups of wine, four expressions of redemption (Exodus 6:6-7) and perhaps
the most famous"Four" of all--the Four
As the Seder developed over the centuries, the Four Questions
underwent many changes
and were altered as
different situations arose.
1. For example, originally one question
dealt with why we ate roasted meat.
2. After the destruction of
the Temple, that question was deleted and one about reclining was substituted.
Today, the Four
Questions (phrased as observations) are asked by the youngest child in the
Why is this night different
from all other nights?
On all other nights, we may eat either chometz* or matzoh; on this night, only matzoh.
2. On all other
nights, we eat all kinds of vegetables; on this night, we must eat maror.
3. On all other
nights, we do not dip even once; on this night we dip
4. On all other
nights, we may eat either sitting or reclining; on this night, we all
The father then explains the Passover story.
There are other questions that the rabbis could have chosen as
well. In the spirit of rabbinical adaptation, here are some additional
questions that both children and adults might ponder.
This and all other italicized Hebrew terms will be listed in a glossary
at the end of this article.)
Why do we place three matzot
together in one napkin?
There are any number of traditions about this. One tradition holds that they
represent the three classes of people in ancient Israel: the Priests, the
Levites, and the Israelites. Another tradition teaches that they symbolize
the three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Yet another explanation is
that it is a depiction of the "Three Crowns": the crown of
learning, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of kingship. 3
And a fourth option is that two of the matzot
stand for the two weekly loaves of Exodus 16:22, and the third matzoh represents the special Passover bread called the
"bread of affliction." 4 And if
those are not enough to keep one's imagination running, here's another. Rabbi
Abraham Isaac Sperling suggested that the three matzot stand for the three "measures of the fine
meal" which Sarah prepared for Abraham's angelic guests (Genesis 18).
The reason for this interpretation lies in the rabbinic tradition that this
event occurred on the night of Passover.
Out of all these explanations, how can we decide which is the right
one, or is there yet another?
Why is the middle matzoh,
the afikoman, broken in the course of the Seder?
Are we breaking the Levites, or Isaac, or the crown of learning,
or one of the guests' cakes, or the bread of affliction? Or are we
symbolizing the parting of the Red Sea (another explanation)? 6 If any of
these explanations are correct, why is the matzoh
hidden away, buried under a cushion, and then taken out and eaten by all, as
the Sephardic ritual puts it, "in memory of the Passover lamb?"
Where is our pesach,
Passover sacrifice, today?
The Torah prescribes that a lamb is to be sacrificed and eaten every Passover
as a memorial of the first Passover lambs which were killed (Deuteronomy
16:1-8). In reply, it is said that without a Temple we can have no
sacrifices - yet some have advocated that the sacrifice still be made in
Jerusalem even without a Temple. 7 Since the
Passover sacrifice, like others, involved the forgiveness of sins, it is
important that we do the right thing. Some feel that the pesach
had nothing to do with forgiveness. But in Exodus Rabbah
15:12 we read, "I will have pity on you, through the blood of the
Passover and the blood of circumcision, and I will forgive you."
Again, Numbers Rabbah 13:20 cites Numbers 7:46,
which deals with the sin offering, and then adds, "This was in allusion
to the Paschal sacrifice." Clearly the rabbis of this time period
regarded the pesach as effecting atonement, and
Leviticus 17:11 confirms that "it is the blood that makes atonement for
the soul."' Today, however, we have only a shankbone,
the zeroah, as a reminder of the Passover
sacrifice, and roasted egg, the chaggigah, in
memory of the festival offerings. But nowhere did God say that we could
dispense with sacrifice. So, where is our pesach
The answers to these questions can be found by examining how and
why the Seder
observance changed dramatically in the first
The Seder celebrated by Jesus
and his disciples
The "Last Supper" was a Passover meal and seems to
have followed much the same order as we find in the Mishnah. In the New
Testament accounts, we find reference to the First Cup, also known as the Cup
of Blessing (Luke 22:17); to the breaking of the matzoh
(Luke 22:19); to the Third Cup, the Cup of Redemption (Luke 22:20): to
reclining (Luke 22:14): to the charoseth or the maror (Matthew 26:23), and to the Hallel
In particular, the matzoh and the Third
Cup are given special significance by Jesus:
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, This
is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same
way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new
covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. Luke 22:19-20
The Passover Lamb
The early Jewish believers in Jesus considered him the fulfillment of the
Passover lambs that were yearly sacrificed. Thus Paul, a Jewish Christian who
had studied under Rabbi Gamaliel. wrote, "Messiah,
our pesach, has been sacrificed for us" (1
Corinthians 5:7). John in his gospel noted that Jesus died at the same
time that the Passover lambs were being slaughtered in the Temple (see John
19:14) and that like the Passover lambs, none of his bones were broken (the
others being crucified had their leg bones broken by the Romans - John
19:32, 33, 36). The idea behind all this was that just as the Israelites were
redeemed from Egyptian slavery by an unblemished lamb, now men could be freed
from slavery to sin by the Messiah, the Lamb of God.
The cessation of the Temple sacrifices
The first Christians were considered a part of the Jewish community until the
end of the first century when they were expelled by the synagogue. Until the
temple was destroyed, these Messianic Jews worshipped regularly with those
Jews who didn't believe in the Messiah. In fact, there were entire
congregations that worshipped Yeshua and they continued in their observance
of the regular Jewish festivals. In such a setting, much interchange of ideas
was possible. Jesus declared over the matzoh,
"This is my body." Since the Jewish believers of that time saw
Jesus as the Passover lamb, it followed that they would see the matzoh as symbolic of Jesus, the Passover lamb. In turn,
with the destruction of the Temple and the cessation of sacrifices, the
larger Jewish community might well have adopted the idea that the matzoh commemorated the lamb, even if they discounted the
As mentioned earlier, the significance of the middle matzoh
and the ceremony connected with it is shrouded in mystery. The
derivation of the word afikoman itself sheds some
light. The word is usually traced to the Greek epikomion
("dessert") or epikomioi
("revelry").9 But Dr. David Daube, professor of civil law at Oxford
University, derives it from aphikomenos, "the
one who has arrived."10 This mystery clears further when one considers
the striking parallels between what is done to the middle matzoh
(afikoman) and what happened to Jesus. The afikoman is broken, wrapped in linen cloth, hidden and
later brought back. Similarly, after his death, Jesus was wrapped in linen,
buried, and resurrected three days later. Is it possible that the current
Ashkenazic practice of having children steal the afikoman
is a rabbinical refutation of the resurrection, implying that grave-snatchers
emptied the tomb?
factors strongly suggest that the afikoman ceremony
adopted from the Jewish Christians by the larger Jewish community
which also adopted the use of the three
Jewish Christians contend
these three matzot represent the triune nature of
God, and that the afikoman
is broken, buried and brought back dramatically represents
THE QUESTION THEN REMAINS:
WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO CONVINCE YOU?
FOOTNOTES: 1. Daube, David, The New Testament and Rabbinic Judaism (University of London, 1956),
p. 187. 2. Klein, Mordell, ed., Passover
(Leon Amiel, 1973), p. 69. 3. Rosen, Ceil and
Moishe, Christ in the Passover (Moody Press, 1978), p. 70. 4. Klein, p. 53. 5. Sperling, Rabbi Abraham Isaac, Reasons for Jewish Customs & Traditions, (Bloch Publishing Co., 1968), p.m 189. 6. Ibid. 7. Klein, p.
28. 8. Morris, Leon, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross (Eerdmans,
Third ed., 1965), pp. 137-732. 9. Gaster,
Theodor Herzel, Passover: Its History and
Traditions (Abelard-Schuman, 1958), p. 64. 10. Daube, "He That
Cometh" (London Diocesan Council for Christian-Jewish Jewish
Understanding, no date).
GLOSSARY OF HEBREW TERMS USED
chaggigah-roasted egg representing
the festival offering; also symbolic of mourning for destruction of the
Charoseth-mixture of apples, cinnamon, nuts and wine representing
the mortar of Egypt.
Chometz-any fermented product
of grain, all leavening agents; hence, that which makes "sour."
Maror-bitter herbs, usually ground horse-radish.
Matzoh-literally "without leaven"; a flat wafer of
unleavened bread ( plural matzot).
Pesach-the holiday of Passover; the Paschal lamb.
Tefillin-phylacteries consisting of inscriptions on parchment encased
in two small leather cubicles attached to the arm and head when at prayer.
Zeroah-literally "arm"; the roasted shank bone on the
seder plate representative of the Paschal
References & Quoted Material
a. Passover article written by Rich Robinson, Jews for Jesus,
ISSUES vol. 3:2
b. The Messianic Passover Haggadah, Lederer Foundation, 1989