THE NEW INGREDIENT
THE LAW OF MOSES which gave the Passover to Israel carefully
prescribed the manner in which it was to be kept. The outstanding
feature of that feast was the Lamb offered by the Priests
in the Temple of Jerusalem, commemorating the Lamb slain in
Egypt, and which alone was called the "Passover."
All of this is recorded in the 12th chapter of the Book of
Yet today with the Temple and the Priesthood gone, and no
possibility of offering the Lamb, we nevertheless persist
in our claim that we are keeping the Passover!
And as if to make up for that deficiency, a new ingredient
has been added to its observance, namely the Wine. Although
nowhere, neither in the writings of Moses, nor in those of
the Rabbis (including Hillel) during the fifteen centuries
that followed the days of Moses, is there any mention made
of wine as being necessary for the keeping of the Passover.
The Hagadda (the Jewish Passover story) tells us how Hillel
kept it. Only 3 things were essential: Pesach, Matzo, and
Moror, that is: the Passover Lamb, the Unleavened Bread, and
the Bitter Herbs.
In other words, during the fifteen hundred years between Moses
and the birth of Christ, Israel kept the Passover without
the wine. Possibly, wine was used by those who could afford
it, but it was not an essential part of the observance of
Yet today the four cups of wine for the celebration of the
Passover, or Seder, are mandatory. No Jew could keep the Passover
without them. The Shulchan Aruch
(Jewish Book of Rules) further instructs that the wine used
on that occasion should be red!
THE DRAMA OF THE MATZO
Moreover, as an additional feature, so as to make up for the
sorely felt loss of the Passover Lamb, part of one of the
Matzos on the Passover Table or "The Seder" (as
it is now called), is no longer just "Unleavened Bread."
It is called Aphikomen and has been vested with a new significance.
It now symbolizes the Passover Lamb itself!
An interesting little drama is being enacted every year in
connection with the Matzo: Three Matzos are placed on the
table, one on the top of the other. The person who conducts
the ceremony breaks the middle one into two unequal parts.
The larger piece he wraps in a clean cloth and hides. Then,
at the close of the meal, he recovers it from its hiding place
and shares it among all members of the family. That piece
of Matzo, or the "Aphikomen" the Shulchan Aruch
bids 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 the matter
now stands, it is no longer the Passover Lamb, commanded by
Moses, which constitutes the main feature of the Jewish Passover,
but the bread (Matzo) and the wine.
This marks a radical departure from the feast initiated by
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?
THE STORY THAT WAS NOT ALLOWED TO BE FORGOTTEN
The answer to the above questions may perhaps surprise the
reader. But I am sure he will be glad to know it. It will
throw a new light upon one of the most vital episodes of Jewish
The things we are doing to the Matzo and the Wine is a story
in action, or a drama, of something that happened long ago,
about someone that lived long ago.
This story is told in secret, as it were, because the people
were afraid to tell it openly. And for centuries Jewish lips
were forbidden to utter the name of the hero of that story
or to reveal its source.
That story, however, could not be forgotten. It became indelibly
enshrined in the soul of Israel. In order to keep it alive
and fresh, it was re-enacted year after year at the Seder
which is the most sacred and the most religious occasion of
the Jewish home. It waited until the book where that story
is written could be opened and read without fear. That book
is the Book of the New Testament. It is the book which tells
of the Life, the Teaching, the Suffering, the Death and the
Resurrection of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah!
THE CORE AND THE SUBSTANCE OF THE SEDER
About three decades before the destruction of the Second Temple
(A.D. 70) we are told that Jesus, at the close of His career,
went with His disciples to an upper room in Jerusalem to keep
the Passover with them. Someone present on that occasion describes
the incident in the following words:
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
In those few sentences which describe the institution of the
Christian Passover or the Lord's Supper, the answers to the
questions we asked above are found:
Why does the Jew, while eating the piece of Matzo which is
called "Aphikomen," believe (according to the Shulchan
Aruch) that he is eating the PESACH (or the Passover Lamb)?
The origin of this idea is not found in the Talmud; it comes
from the New Testament. It is because Jesus took bread (Matzo)
and said: "This is my body." It is He who gave His
disciples bread and told them, as they were eating it, to
believe that they were eating the Korban Pesach (Sacrifice
of the Passover). He, the Messiah, was the true Korban Pesach.
It was from Him that the Rabbis learned to make such an identification.
Some Jewish readers at this point might protest and cry: "This
is impossible! Jews would never do such a thing!" Yet
it is so. The New Testament undoubtedly is the source and
origin of the essential features of the Jewish Seder. What
follows will dispel any further doubt in the matter.
Why are there three Matzos on the Seder table, and why is
the middle matzo broken?
The customary explanation for the presence of the three Matzos
is that they represent the three groups in Israel: the Cohens,
the Levites, and the Israelites. But if that be the case,
why is the middle Matzo broken, wrapped and hidden (a recent
Jewish writer uses the term "buried" instead of
"hidden"), and then recovered from the hiding place
and shared among the members of the family? Why also is it
called by the mysterious name, Aphikomen? What has all this
to do with the Levites? Nothing like this has happened to
But every single act done to that middle Matzo is a description
of what happened to Jesus. It is therefore He whom the Aphikomen
represents. And all the three Matzos are symbolic of the threefold
revelation of the Godhead according to the Bible: God the
Father and Creator, God the Savior or Redeemer, and God the
Holy Spirit. The middle Matzo which represents Jesus is therefore
broken. He was broken when He was crucified!
Why is the broken Matzo wrapped in a cloth and hidden? Because
the disciples of Jesus, when He died on the cross, took His
body down, wrapped it in grave clothes and placed it in a
Why is the broken Matzo, called Aphikomen, recovered from
its hiding place? Because on the third day God raised Jesus
from the grave in His resurrection from the dead.
Why is the Aphikomen eaten as the last act of the Seder? Because
other parallel reports of this incident inform us that this
institution of the "Lord's Supper" took place at
the close of the meal in the upper room in Jerusalem.
And finally, Why is the Aphikomen shared among all the members
of the family? Because the followers of Jesus are regarded
as the family of God; and Jesus had said to them, "Take,
eat!" He is the bread of life to all who believe in HIM.
THE WINE THAT WAS RED
The incident related in the New Testament also answers the
questions with reference to the Wine on the Seder table.
Why is wine necessary and essential for the Seder? Because
Jesus took the cup, gave thanks and gave it to His disciples.
Why is the wine to be red, resembling blood? Because Jesus
said: "This is my blood of the New Testament, shed for
many for the remission of sins."
Why is it mandatory that every Jew should drink wine at the
Seder? Because Jesus said: "Drink ye all of it."
THE MYSTERY OF THE APHIKOMEN
What is the meaning of this mysterious word "Aphikomen?"
It looks like a Greek word. Most scholars are agreed that
it is, but different opinions exist as to its meaning. Some
say it comes from "Epikomos" and means "dessert."
But that does not seem to be correct, since a great deal of
violence had to be perpetrated on the word "Epikomos"
in order to turn it into "Aphikomen."
But there is another Greek word, which gives a full and satisfactory
explanation, and where violence is not at all necessary to
give it meaning. It reads exactly as our Aphikomen. What does
it mean? According to the Greek lexicon it means "I CAME."
Who came? The One obviously, whom the broken Matzo represents,
namely the Lord Jesus, the True Pesach!
In the Aphikomen, therefore, the Lord Jesus, calls to all
who are waiting and hoping for the coming of the Messiah,
"Why do you wait any longer? I came already! Aphikomen!
Open your eyes of faith, and behold Me. I am the True Passover.
I shed my blood to shield you from death and give you eternal
life. I stand in the place of your Passover Lamb because I
am its fulfillment!"
Jesus is the Shepherd of Israel. He has not forsaken His people.
We cannot escape Him. Like the Good Shepherd He is following
His sheep through all the places of their wanderings. He has
been with us through all the vicissitudes of our sorrowful
existence. "In all their afflictions he was afflicted,"
the Prophet Isaiah assures us. Do not turn away from Him.
Still He is calling, "Come unto me, all ye that are weary
and heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
HOW IT HAPPENED
Before we leave our subject, we must still say a word as to
how it was that the "Lord's Supper" became the core
of the "Jewish Seder." Briefly, it happened like
this: At the time of the birth of Jesus, and about thirty
years after, only one kind of Passover was in vogue in Israel;
the kind that Moses instituted at the Exodus, and the kind
Hillel observed fifteen hundred years after Moses. Then Jesus
held His memorable supper in the upper room in Jerusalem,
saying to them: "This do in remembrance of me."
Thereafter, there were two kinds of Passover in Israel; the
one that Hillel kept according to the Law of Moses, and the
other which the Lord Jesus instituted. To begin with, the
disciples of Jesus, being devout Jews, observed both kinds.
As long as the Temple stood, they with the rest of the Jewish
people ate the Passover after the manner of Hillel, and at
the close remembered with the bread and the wine the death
and the resurrection of their Lord. Then in A.D. 70 Jerusalem
and the Temple with the Priesthood were destroyed. As a consequence,
the Passover after the manner of Hillel was done away with,
and only the Passover after the manner of Jesus remained.
The abolition of Hillel's Passover left an intolerable void
in the religion of Israel. That void had to be filled if Israel
as a nation was to survive. But it had to be a kind of "Passover"
which was not tied inseparably to the Temple and the Priesthood
that were no more. The "Passover" of the disciples
of Jesus completely answered their purpose. The Jewish leaders,
therefore, incorporated it into the religion of their people,
building around it embellishments and other features to adapt
it to the circumstances of Israel in the Golus (Exile). Yet,
in spite of all the features and embellishments with which
they loaded it, they could not efface its inner and original
Always, and ever, therefore, it was Jesus, the Shepherd, and
Savior of Israel, who provided for the spiritual need and
sustenance for His people to insure their survival; and forever
He will stand by their side, waiting till they hear His voice,
find safety in His fold, and find rest for their troubled