Host and observe a Passover Seder at the White House. If you don’t know anything about it, here’s a link. cresourcei.org/haggadah.html
And if you ever want to actually put one together… crivoice.org/seder.html
The Passover Seder is a Jewish tradition observed on the first two nights of Passover (at least it was- now it’s often a one-night deal), and the one at the White House will be a second-night Seder. Over the last few decades, Christian adaptations of this tradition have become more popular. I got to participate in one yesterday. It was pretty cool to see how the symbolic tradition pointed the way to the Messiah, Jesus.
There are four cups, each symbolizing a different expression of deliverance. The Seder plate has six symbolic foods, and the seventh- the stack of three matzot- is separate. It is not very hard to adapt the stack of three matzot to the idea of the Trinity, nor is it very difficult to see the symbolism of the total lack of leaven, representing sin. The Seder I participated in was adapted to Christianity and initiated/partially organized by Messianic Jews who are friends of mine, so I had the chance to see how all of the symbolism tied together.
It made me think about the symbolism of the Passover leading up to the Last Supper a lot more than I ever had before. For example, the Maror and Chazeret- two bitter herbs- are dipped in a little bit of saltwater and eaten. The saltwater symbolizes the tears of the Jews enslaved in Egypt, and the bitter herbs represent the hyssop- another bitter herb- that was used to smear the blood of a lamb across the doorframe the night of Passover. This blood, in turn, prefigures the blood of the Lamb, Jesus. Representations wrapped in symbols enfolded in meaning presented in tradition…It’s a paschal turducken! And it all came together in Jesus Christ. Participating in this let me see a lot more of how Christianity grew out of Judaism.
As a Protestant, my perspective obviously differs a little from that of Catholics. From my perspective, I’m thinking about all the symbolism that led up to Jesus’ perfect sacrifice- the passover lambs, all the sin offerings through the centuries, the unleavened bread and so much else that prefigured Jesus- and I’m thinking about how Jesus was the actual realization and completion of all this. At this point, we continue it by doing “post-figuring,” if you will, in the Eucharist. But instead of looking forward to Jesus’ sacrifice, we look back in remembrance of it. It all kind of came together- the matzot and the wine/grape juice is Jesus’ body and blood and has been ever since the Seder began, just as the Passover lambs and other sin offerings were Jesus’ body and blood. The big thing that I never realized was how unleavened bread (representing sinlessness) and wine had been used for over a thousand years to prefigure the salvation and freedom of mankind- and Jesus (or Yeshua, the masculine form of the Hebrew word meaning “salvation”) took those symbolic elements (among many other symbolic elements) just before His crucifixion and said “This is me.” I’m sure Catholics have a much different take on that, but at least that gives you a look into the mind of a Protestant.
I guess I always knew Jesus was celebrating Passover with his disciples during Passion Week leading up to His death on the Cross. I just never knew exactly what that looked like. I don’t know if I’ll ever do this again, but I’m glad I did it once, just so I can better understand the link between Judaism and Jesus. And, of course, so I can better understand what Jesus and His disciples were doing in the days before the crucifixion and resurrection.
So if you didn’t know what a Passover Seder was, now you know (if you followed the link, that is). And if you ever have the chance to participate in one, I’d encourage you to do it at least once. Oh, and in case you wanted to know, Obama is having the first one ever hosted at the White House later today. If anyone has any thoughts, opinions, or additional information on the White House Seder, please feel free to post it here. At this point, the only other thing I know is this: A year ago, Obama and his campaign staff had an impromptu Seder in the basement of a hotel at this time during the primaries. At the end, just after the closing phrase “Next year in Jerusalem,” Obama added “Next year in the White House.” And true to his word, he is doing just that. (I didn’t vote for him in the general election, but I still like the story). Also, let me know if any of you have experienced something similar and what you thought of it. I’m curious to know how many people are at all familiar with this, because I didn’t really know anything about it until it was introduced to me. And I’m glad it was, so now I hope I can pass the info on to a few more people.