The Spring Feasts
Pesach (Passover) and The Feast of The Unleavened Bread
Passover is the first of the spring holidays and is celebrated on the 14th day of Nisan. Exodus (Sh’mot) 12:1-2 states, “Adonai spoke to Moshe and Aharon in the land of Egypt; He said, ‘You are to begin your calendar with this month; it will be the first month of the year for you.”
Leviticus (Vayikra) 23 describes eight “appointed times” of Adonai. The feasts divide naturally into two groups. In the first group, all related to Pesach (Passover), are the Pesach sacrifice, the Feast of The Unleavened Bread, the Feast of First Fruits and Shavout. In the second group, all observed during Tishri, the seventh month, we celebrate the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah/Rosh HaShanah), the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot).
The word Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew, means to “pass” or to “skip over.”
In the Biblical calendar, Nisan is the first month of the year, not Rosh Hashanah, celebrated in Tishri.
Why then is Rosh Hashanah, and not Pesach, commonly known as the Head of the Year? It is traditionally believed that the world was created that day and this is the time of Adam’s birthday (Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 11a).
There are four New Years:
Nisan 1: The first month of the year, reminding us of the exodus from Egypt. It is also known as Rosh Hashanah, the new year of the kings. This is the first month to determine the number of years of a king’s reign.
Elul 1: Tithing of animals
Sh’vat 15: For the trees
Tishri 1: New Year for years
Pesach lasts one day and is considered an extra Shabbat day. Pesach precedes the Feast of The Unleavened Bread that lasts for seven days.
Jewish holidays always begin at sunset (Genesis [B’resheet] 1:5 . . . so there was evening, and there was morning, one day). This is a feast for every generation (Exodus [Sh’mot] 12:14). Passover, the 14th day of Nisan, is a high Shabbat, called a “shabbaton.” It also begins the Feast of The Unleavened Bread (Exodus [Sh’mot] 12:16). Foreigners are not allowed to eat the Pesach lamb unless they are circumcised (Exodus [Sh’mot] 12:43-51).
How to celebrate
“On the 10th day of Nisan, you must take a lamb or kid (baby goat) for each household (Exodus [Sh’mot] 12:3-5).”
If the household is too small, then they are to share it with their neighbor.
The lamb or kid (baby goat) must be a one year-old male.
The animal must be without defect or blemish.
“On the 14th day of Nisan, the entire assembly of the community of Israel will slaughter it at dusk (Exodus [Sh’mot] 12:16-10).”
Take some of the blood and smear it on the top and sides of the entrance to the house.
They are to eat the meat roasted in fire with matzah (unleavened bread) and maror (bitter herbs).
The goat or lamb must be roasted and not eaten raw.
You must roast the entire animal (head, lower part of the legs, and inner organs).
Any part of the lamb that remains must be completely burnt.
“Here is how to eat it . . . (Exodus [Sh’mot] 12:11)”
- Belt fastened
- Shoes on your feet
- Staff in your hand
- Eat it in haste
What was to happen that night
“For that night, I will pass through the land of Egypt . . . (Exodus [Sh’mot] 12:12-14)
All the first-born males and the livestock of all the houses that did not have the blood on their doorposts would die
Elohim executed judgment on the people and the elohims of Egypt.
The blood was a sign.
We are to celebrate Pesach as an everlasting ordinance for every generation.
The Feast of The Unleavened Bread
“For seven days you are to eat matzah (Exodus [Sh’mot] 12:15-20)
Remove all leaven from your house
If you eat leaven, you will be cut off from Israel.
The 1st and 7th days are to have an assembly, and are Shabbat days (except to prepare the food).
This is the day that Adonai brought us out of Egypt.
No one is to eat anything with leaven in it, even the foreigner among you.
Observe this day from generation to generation.
The actual event:
“Then Moshe called for all the leaders of Israel and said, ‘Select and take lambs for your families and slaughter the Pesach lamb . . . (Exodus [Sh’mot] 12:21-28)’”
- Dip the blood and put it on the doorframes of your home.
- After this is accomplished, you are not to go out the door of the house until morning.
- Adonai will pass through and kill the first-born in the land of Egypt, but when He sees the blood, Adonai will pass over the door and not allow the Slaughterer to enter the house.
- You are to observe this law, you and your descendants forever.
- You are to teach it to your children.
The consequences of disobedience:
“At midnight, Adonai killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt . . .(Exodus [Sh’mot] 12:29-31)”
- The firstborn of Pharaoh was killed.
- The firstborn of the prisoner in the dungeon.
- The firstborn of all the livestock.
- Without the covering of blood, death entered the house.
Make haste and leave:
“He (Pharaoh) summoned Moshe and Aharon by night and said ‘Get up and leave my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go . . . (Exodus [Sh’mot] 12:31-42)”
- The Egyptians wanted the Israelites to leave quickly, because they feared they would be dead.
- The Israelites took their dough before it had become leavened.
- The Egyptians gave the Israelites silver, gold, jewelry, and clothing.
- The people left at night.
A command from Adonai
“Adonai said to Moshe and Aharon, ‘This is the regulation for the Pesach lamb . . . (Exodus [Sh’mot] 12:43-50)’”
- No foreigner is to eat it.
- You must be circumcised.
- You are not to take the meat outside the house.
- You are not to break any of its bones.
Traditional Celebration of Pesach (Passover)
Because of its historical meaning for the Jewish people, the celebration of Pesach is perhaps the most elaborate feast. The season starts by an extensive cleaning of the home, to remove anything with leaven in it.
The search for leaven is called bedikat hametz, which is conducted by the head of the household (usually male), in which he symbolically searches for every last bit of leaven in every room of the house.
It is customary to proceed through the house by candlelight, searching for leaven. When it is found, a feather is used to brush the crumbs into a wooden spoon. After all the rooms have been examined, then the spoon, feather and crumbs are wrapped together and burned the following morning. Matzah will be the only thing remaining after the search.
Matzah was used in the sacrificial system of the Temple. Offerings had to be absolutely pure, and anything leavened (chametz) was considered impure, because it had fermented, or soured. (The word chametz literally means “sour.”). Matzah (unleavened bread), on the other hand, was a symbol of purity.
“Get rid of the old hametz (leaven), so that you can be a new batch of dough, because in reality you are unleavened. For our Pesach lamb, the Messiah has been sacrificed. So let us celebrate the Seder not with leftover hametz, the hametz of wickedness and evil, but with the matzah of purity and truth.” I Corinthians 5:7-8)
In the evening, the family will hold a Seder, “order of service.” A meal is prepared with ritual food based on Exodus (Sh’mot) 12 (lamb, matzah, and bitter herbs). Rabbis later added numerous other elements, including green vegetables, a roasted egg, haroset (apple/nut mix) and cups of wine.
The rabbis also added the matzah tash. The matzah is placed in a special pouch containing three separate sections. One piece of matzah is placed in each of the sections. Rabbinic commentaries hypothesize that the matzah represents unity. In the Messiah the three pieces of the matzah represent the tri-unity.
The Seder is conducted with the re-telling of the Pesach (Passover) story. A Haggadah, or storybook, is used. The Haggadah was introduced by the members of the Sanhedrin – the Great Assembly – almost 2,500 years ago in order to comply with Exodus (Sh’mot) 13:8: “And you shall instruct your son on that day . . .” The Haggadah is basically a book of instruction, particularly for the young.
Preparing for the Pesach Seder
How does one perform a Seder? The following is a list of items you will need:
- A pair of candles
- A Haggadah for all participants
- A Seder plate with: a roasted egg, a roasted lamb bone, a small bowl of salt water, karpas (usually parsley), bitter herbs (usually horseradish), and charoset (apple/nut mixture)
- Wine or grape juice
- Cup for Elijah
- Pillow for leader’s chair
- Bowl of water and towel for hand washing
- A special dinner
There are many rich customs in the Jewish heritage that provide a great opportunity for “show and tell.” This is one such event. Parents are commanded to “teach your sons and daughters;” therefore, by the re-telling of the story in conjunction with the ritual foods, children will learn and enjoy this symbolic time.
The meaning of the Seder plate
There are several items on the Seder plate. The following are the traditional and the Messianic meaning behind each item:
Lamb shank bone:
Traditional: The shank bone (“zeroa” in Hebrew) is a reminder of “the mighty arm” of Elohim, as the Bible describes it, which encouraged Pharaoh to release the children of Israel from bondage. It is also symbolic of the Pesach lamb offered as the Passover sacrifice in Temple days.
Messianic: The shank bone reminds us of the sacrificial lamb. The lamb reminds us of the way of redemption and the blood of the sacrifice Yeshua fulfilled.
Traditional: The middle of the three matzahs is broken, then hidden to be found later during the service. The hidden matzah is called the “afikomen,” a Greek word meaning “that which comes last.” On Pesach, since the bread is not to be eaten, two matzahs are baked instead. A third matzah is added as a reminder of the joyous nature of this holiday of freedom. Some authorities interpret the use of the three matzahs as representing the three groups in Jewish religious life: priests, Levites, and Israelites.
Messianic: We believe the three matzahs represent the tri-unity of Elohim — the Father, Son and Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit). The afikomen represents Yeshua, who was broken for our sins, wrapped in a white burial cloth, placed in a tomb (hidden), and then rose from the dead (was found again).
Maror (Bitter Herbs):
Traditional: Maror symbolizes the Israelites’ bitter lot during their enslavement in Egypt.
Messianic: We believe the bitter herbs also symbolize the bondage and burdens we experience while living in the world before we accepted Yeshua into our life.
Karpas and salt water:
Traditional: The custom of serving karpas dates back to Jerusalem in the first and second centuries, when it was common to begin a formal meal by passing vegetables as hors d’oeuvres. The vegetable was dipped in salt water before eating. The salt water is also used to symbolize the tears the Israelites shed while in slavery. The karpas also represents the Israelites going into the Red Sea and coming out on the other side. Then Egyptians followed the Israelites into the Sea and are swallowed as we eat the karpas.
Messianic: Agrees with the traditional.
Traditional: The egg is symbolic of the regular festival sacrifice brought in the days the Temple stood in Jerusalem. Some authorities have interpreted the roasted egg as a symbol of mourning for the loss of the two Temples that once stood in Jerusalem. With the Temple destroyed, sacrifices could no longer be offered. The egg symbolized this loss, and has traditionally become the food of mourners.
Messianic: We agree with the interpretation of the traditional. However the possibility exists that it came from the Babylonian custom of celebrating the beginning of spring and new birth as part of worship to the goddess Ishtar.
Traditional: Charoset is symbolic of the mortar the Children of Israel were required to make for their Egyptian taskmaster during their enslavement in Egypt. Aside from the token amount placed on the Seder tray, a small amount is served together with the bitter herbs (maror) to reduce the bitter taste of the horseradish.
Messianic: To the believer, the charoset reminds us that even the worst of circumstances can be sweetened when we have the hope of Messiah in our lives.
The Seder Service
1. We light the candles, using the following blessing:
Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu, Melech ha’olam,
asher kideshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu,
l’hadlik ner shel Hag. Amen
Blessed are You, O Adonai our Elohim, King of the universe,
who has sanctified us in Your Word, given us our Messiah Yeshua,
and commanded us to be a light to the world. Amen
2. The four cups of wine: symbolizes the words spoken to Moshe:
- I will bring you out of Egypt
- I will deliver you from bondage
- I will redeem you with an outstretched hand
- I will take you to Me for a people
The cup of sanctification: The first cup of wine that starts the Seder. We are to sanctify this service and dedicate it to YHVH.
The cup of plagues: The second cup – we dip our finger in the cup of wine, and then touch the plate, to commemorate each plague.
The cup of redemption (salvation): This cup symbolizes the spiritual redemption found in Messiah’s sacrifice.
The cup of praise: Elohim’s acceptance of His people.
3. The cup of sanctification
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha olam,
Borei p’ri ha-gafen. Amen
Blessed are You, O Adonai our Elohim, King of the Universe,
Creator of the fruit of the vine. Amen
4. We wash our hands.
5. We eat the karpas.
6. We ask the Four Questions:
1. On all other nights, we eat either leavened bread or (matzah) unleavened; on this night why only unleavened bread?
2. On all other nights we eat herbs of any kind; on this night why only bitter herbs?
3. On all other nights we do not dip our herbs even once; on this night why do we dip them twice?
4. On all other nights we eat our meals in any manner; on this night why do we sit around the table together in a reclining position?
The Four Questions asked at the Seder are mentioned in the Talmud (Mishna Pesachim 10:4). Originally, the fourth question did not ask, “Why do we recline tonight?” The fourth question read, “On all other nights, we eat meat which has been roasted, stewed, or boiled, but on this night we eat only roasted meat.” After the Temple was destroyed (70 AD) and the sacrificial system abandoned, the question about reclining was substituted. The new question symbolized freedom, the motif of the Passover Seder.
Typically, the youngest child in the family asks these questions. The questions could be viewed as being ranked from the most simple to the most difficult. The first two questions relate to bondage (matzah and maror), and the last two relate to freedom (dipping foods and reclining). The questions are answered by the Pesach story.
7. We answer the Four Questions:
Question 1 deals with the matzah. Matzah is flat bread with perforations in it. The perforations allow the air to escape, reducing the chance of fermentation. These tiny holes also prevent the dough from rising while baking. When it is finished baking, the matzah has a “striped” look. The middle matzah, or the afikomen, is broken and hidden, waiting to be found at the conclusion of the Seder. We view the matzah as a figurative example of Isaiah (Yeshayahu) 53:
“In fact, it was our diseases He bore, our pains from which He suffered yet we regarded Him as punished, stricken and afflicted by Elohim. But He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”
The matzah is striped and brown.
“And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn Him as one mourns for His only Son . . . (Zechariah [Z’kharyah] 12:10)”
With the perforations in the matzah, it gives the appearance of being pierced. Just like the afikomen, Yeshua was broken in death, but returned to ascend into heaven.
Question 2 deals with bitter herbs. This reminds us of the bitterness of slavery.
Question 3 deals with dipping vegetables. The charoset reminds us of the mortar and clay used to make bricks. By dipping the maror and the charoset, we remember that even the most bitter situations can be sweetened by Elohim.
Question 4 deals with why we recline. Reclining, in ancient times, was a symbol of a free man. The ancient Israelites were finally free from the bondage of slavery and oppression. When we receive Yeshua’s salvation, we are free from our old life and ransformed into a new creature.
8. The story of Pesach (Passover)
The story of Pesach (Passover) is one of redemption and freedom, meant to instill faith in our children and ourselves.
9. The cup of plagues
Religion, in ancient Egypt, was characterized by a complex polytheism, as a wide variety of local deities and the people worshiped nature Elohims. Man Elohims were associated with fertility and agriculture, and the protection of virtually every aspect of life was ascribed to some deity. The ten plagues were direct challengers to the worship of Egyptian deities who were thought to protect Egyptian life and property. In this way, the supremacy of Adonai, the Elohim of Israel, was vividly demonstrated.
The plagues occurred within a period of approximately nine months. The following information indicates the plague and the possible Egyptian deity it was directed against.
- Nile turned to blood
Exodus (Sh’mot) 7:14-25
Khnum: guardian of the Nile
Hapi: spirit of the Nile
Osiris: Nile’s bloodstream
Exodus (Sh’mot) 8:1-15
Heqt: frog; god of resurrection
- Gnats or Lice
Exodus (Sh’mot) 8:16-19
Egyptian god of the earth
Exodus (Sh’mot) 8:20-32
Ekron: god of flies
- Plague on cattle
Exodus (Sh’mot) 9:1-7
Hathor: mother-goddess; form of cow
Apis: Ptah’s bull; symbol of fertility
Mnevis: sacred bull of Heliopolis
Exodus (Sh’mot) 9:8-12
Imhotep: god of medicine
Exodus (Sh’mot) 9:13-35
Nut: sky goddess
Isis: goddess of life
Seth: protector of crops
Exodus (Sh’mot) 10:1-20
Isis: goddess of life
Seth: protector of crops
Exodus (Sh’mot) 10:21-29
Re, Aten, Atum, Horas: all sun gods
- Death of firstborn
Exodus (Sh’mot) 11:1-12:36
The deity of Pharaoh: Osiris, giver of life
10. The Passover (Pesach) lamb
Certain attitudes and symbols seem to maintain their meaning through tradition. Perhaps one of the most pervasive themes is the value placed on blood and blood sacrifice. Most rituals involve killing animals and splashing, spattering, and daubing blood. Blood is a vital substance in Israelite religious life, holding a critical place in narrative and performative aspects of tradition. Sacrifice is the central feature of Israelite religious life, a means of mediating the relationship between Elohim and humans by offering something of value.
Elohim commanded Israel to take a lamb on the tenth day of Nisan and set it aside until the fourteenth day (Exodus [Sh’mot] 12:3, 6). Yeshua fulfilled these four days during the Passover week. He entered Jerusalem and went to the temple, the house of Elohim, and went on public display there for four days from Nisan 10 to Nisan 14 (Matthew [Mattityahu] 21:1, 9-12, 17-18, 23, 24:1, 3, 26:1-5).
The lamb was to be without blemish (Exodus [Sh’mot] 12:5). Yeshua was the Lamb of Elohim, and as such, was spotless, without blemish, without sin (hametz or leaven). During the final week of His life, Yeshua was examined by many, including these individuals:
- The chief priests
- Hananiah (Annas), the High Priest
- Kefa (Caiaphas), the High Priest
- Y’huda K’riot(Judas Iscariot)
- The Centurion
- The repentant thief
A Passover lamb was to be killed “between the evenings” (Exodus [Sh’mot] 12:6).
The Biblical day lasts from evening to evening, from sundown to sundown, which is roughly 6:00 PM to 6:00 PM. The day is divided into two 12-hour periods. The evening runs from 6:00 PM to 6:00 AM. From 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM is the daylight portion of the day. From noon to 6:00 PM is the evening section of the day. The phrase “between the evenings” refers to the period of the day that lasts from 3 PM to 6:00 PM. Three PM is the ninth hour of the day, counting from 6:00 AM. This is the time Yeshua died, during the ninth hour of the day.
Dayenu means, “It would have been sufficient;” a traditional song sung at Passover.
The Afikomen — The afikomen is found and “ransomed” back by the head of the table. Everyone at the table then shares the afikomen.
12. The Cup of Redemption
This is the third cup of the Seder. This cup symbolizes the blood of the Passover Lamb. Yeshua celebrated the Passover Seder before his death. This cup now symbolizes the Blood of the Lamb, and gives salvation to all who confess and believe.
At this time, the door is opened to welcome the Prophet Elijah. John the Baptizer fulfilled Elijah’s role in announcing the coming of Messiah. Yeshua recognized John when he said, “And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come” (Matthew [Mattityahu] 11:14).
13. The Cup of Praise
This is the last cup of the Seder. The Hallel Psalms are recited with this cup.
14. The ending blessing
Lashanah haba’ah B’Yerushalayim – Next year in Jerusalem!
About The Author
Rabbi Amnon and Rebbetzin Lynette Shor are international conference speakers on prophetic subjects, the Middle East conflict, Biblical holidays, and Jewish cultural life. Rabbi Shor has appeared on many radio and television programs which include CBS, CBN, TBN, and Jewish Voice. He has also worked with Promise Keepers as the international liaison to Israel and the Middle East, and with the Road to Jerusalem Ministry as global spokesman.
Rabbi Amnon Shor, was born in Israel to an orthodox Jewish family. His grandfather Zachariah was a Rabbi in the local synagogue. Rabbi Shor learned the Old Testament and the Jewish Law from early childhood. After his service in the Israeli Army, where he fought the Egyptian Army in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, he set out to see the world working for EL-AL Israel’s Airlines , where he met his wife of 41 years Lynette. They have three children and seven grandchildren.