A Seder plate should appear here..
by Rachmiel Frydland


      The Passover table was prepared and set for the Seder. In the center was the five branched candlestick with the holiday lights over which the blessings were pronounced by the mother of the household. The father had been busy for the last twenty-four hours removing the leaven and cleaning ritually in boiling water some of the utensils that had to be used all year round and on Passover.  The special utensils, kept only for these eight days of Passover, were taken out from hiding. The matzo was purchased and brought into the house along with the wine for this special season. Now it was time to prepare the ceremonial platter where the various additional items are placed into their proper place arranged in two triangular patterns: first the roasted shank bone, symbol of the roasted Passover lamb, is placed on the right. Opposite it, on the left, is the egg, roasted whole and symbolic of the Passover and the new life and resurrection. The bitter herbs are placed somewhat below and centered between the shankbone and the egg, to remind us of the bitter life which our ancestors endured in Egypt.

      The next triangle consists of the haroseth, made of grated nuts and apples with a dash of wine to produce the color of mortar as it is written: "And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage in mortar" (Exodus 1: 14).  This item is placed on the lower right. Opposite it on the left is the vegetable called karpos, usually a stalk of petersilia or carrot to remind us of the low fare given to our ancestors in Egypt. It also is a symbol of the hyssop used for the sprinkling of the blood of the Passover lamb.  Then centered below them are the grated bitter herbs to complete the second triangle.  There is also a seventh item outside the large platter. This is a dish of salt water to remind us of tears shed in Egypt and of the crossing of the salted Red Sea.


      The four questions are to be asked by the youngest son as it is written: "And it shall be when thy son asketh thee ... What is this?" (Exodus 13:14).  The four questions which are really four responses to one question are:

      Why is this night different from all other nights? (1) Any other night we may eat either leavened or unleavened bread, but on this night only unleavened bread (2) Any other night we may eat any herbs, but this night only bitter herbs (3) Any other night we do not dip even once, but on this night twice (the bitter herbs in the haroseth and the vegetable in the salt water) (4) Any other night we eat either sitting or leaning (on cushions) but on this night we all lean.

      This is an opportune time for the father to begin the chanting of the Haggadah, the great story of the exodus from Egypt and the many miracles which accompanied it.  He performs actions symbolic of God's great miracles. At the recital of the ten plagues that God brought upon the Egyptians the wine in the cup is diminished.  This shows God's compassion on the very enemies of God and His people. Every person drinks four cups of wine during the Seder to symbolize the four "I wills" of redemption found in Exodus 6:6-7. The wine must be red to symbolize blood.


      Early in the ceremony the father uncovers the three matzot which lie in front of him in a three-pocketed napkin.  He takes out the middle matzo, breaks it in half, takes the larger half and wraps it in a napkin and hides it somewhere under his cushion.  One of the children will try to steal it away and claim a price if successful. Otherwise it will lie there "buried" until the service is over.  Then it will be taken out and broken into small pieces and distributed to the members of the family.  This, too, is a symbol of the Passover of which everyone was to participate.  This matzo, since it had been broken, has become the aphikomen, a word apparently derived from the Greek, meaning, "I arrive," or "I come to." (not epikomen which means dessert).


     The following questions are not in the Hagadah but should be asked nevertheless:


1.      Why do we place three matzot in one napkin? The usual explanation is that they represent the threefold division in Israel: Priests, Levites and Israelites. But the Priests and Levites are of the same tribe and the whole people of Israel are called a kingdom of priests in Exodus 19:6!


2.     Why is the middle matzo broken in the course of the Seder? Why is the larger half hidden away, buried under the cushion, taken out later and eaten by all in memory of the Passover lamb?


3.     What is our pesach today? Is it the roasted shank bone, the Zero'ah? It can hardly be so, for its blood was not sprinkled on the doorposts of the houses as prescribed in the Torah. It was not roasted whole either. Is it then the roasted egg on the Passover platter? An egg is surely not a sacrifice. Why are we advised to have wine red as blood on Passover? What or Whom does this represent?


4. What is the meaning of the verses we recite from Psalm 118:22-23: "The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.  This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. “Who is the "Stone" and who are the "Builders?" 


     Jewish believers in the Messiah are convinced that there is a connection in the Passover Seder with the Last Supper of our Messiah. Almost 2000 years ago, Jesus of Nazareth, Yeshua HaNotzree, who claimed to be Messiah, sat down with His disciples to celebrate the Passover Seder after accomplishing His teaching and healing ministries. On the table were probably the three matzot and red wine. When the time came to break the matzo and drink the wine, the Lord Yeshua gave the following explanation as we read in the Brit Hadashah (New Covenant): He took bread and gave thanks and broke it, and gave it unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. (Luke 22:19-20).

     From this we can make the following inferences:

1.      The three matzot may represent the triune nature of God: The Unity, His Shechinah, and the One who is concealed from most of the people, as we pray "Behold I am prepared and ready to fulfill the commandment of the first (second, third, fourth) cup. In the name of the Holy Unity, blessed be He and His Shechinah, through Him who is hidden and concealed."


2.     The middle matzo represents the One whose body was broken and given for us. It was hidden and buried, and then resurrected with the promise of aphikomen. I have come already and am coming again'



3.     The late Professor Solomon Birnbaum had the opinion that it was no longer possible for our people to offer the Passover lamb since the Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70. However, seeing the followers of Jesus of Nazareth celebrate Passover with matzo and wine to represent the sacrifice of Messiah, the Jewish leaders "incorporated it into the religion of the people ... [for it] completely answered the purpose." In other words, some of our ceremonies at the Seder Table are adapted from the practices by which the followers of Yeshua commemorated His sacrificial death. A Jewish believer, referring to Yeshua, declared: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." (John 1:29). He is our Passover sacrifice.


4. He, the Messiah, is the Stone, the Rock of Israel. Him, many of our builders, or leaders, rejected, and He has become the headstone, the most important Jew in the history of our people. But one day our people will accept Him, "And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob."


How about you?

Have you received your Redeemer, the Stone whom the builders rejected?

  In Him is life, light and joy and in His sacrifice is forgiveness of sin.



Reprinted with permission of The Messianic Literature Outreach


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