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The Passover Story and its Symbols

Written by Julia Shalom Jordan. Posted in Articles, Jewish Articles

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Published on February 07, 2014 with No Comments

The Passover Story and its Symbols

God performed countless miracles for and through the Jewish people. Passover is one of the most exceptional accounts in Jewish history. The Nation of Israel made a covenant with God to keep an oral account to remember where they came from and what God has done.

But, you needn’t be Jewish to be a lover of God’s promises, people and convents. So, listen to the amazing story of God’s redemption, mercy and miracles! Don’t just read it.  FEEL it.  Feel the pain of God’s people. Share in their suffering. Understand the shame that comes with enslavement. And, rejoice in the freedom that God has provided through His ultimate sacrifice: Y’shua, the Lamb of the Almighty God!

Passover recipes

The story begins with a great famine. Jacob and his family resided in the land of Canaan; there was a serious drought threating the survival of all who lived there.

Canaan’s location was in close proximity to the land of Egypt, a place that had prepared for hard times.

Jacob instructed his sons to travel into Egypt to purchase food and supplies.  This trip would forever change the fate and location of the Jewish people.

But, first we must regress a bit. Long ago, Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph, was despised by his jealous brothers and was sold into slavery by them. Despite such hardship, Joseph never abandoned God and God never left him.

The Great Almighty allowed Joseph to prosper in the foreign land. Joseph moved up in the ranks. And the boy who was once a Hebrew slave held much power, prestige and influence in the land of Egypt.

Years later, during the Canaan drought, when the sons of Jacob came into the land of Egypt to buy food, Joseph recognized his brothers.

Instead of lashing out in anger and hate, Joseph looked upon his family with compassion and forgiveness. At Joseph’s generous prompting, Jacob’s family moved into the land of Goshen. Joseph’s mercy provided for his family during the famine. The Jews prospered and grew strong.  Life for God’s people was very secure for a many years.

The Jewish Exodus

But, eventually that time would end. There arose a Pharaoh who didn’t know Joseph. When he came to power, he was concerned when noticing that the Hebrew people outnumbered the Egyptians in the land. Fearing that there would be an overthrow, the Pharaoh turned the Hebrew citizens into Hebrew slaves.

In his cruelty, the Pharaoh forced hard labor on the Jewish people.  But, despite the difficult work and complete exhaustion, the Jewish people continued to grow in population. This outraged the power-hungry Pharaoh!

Passover sedar meal

In order to control the population of the Hebrews, Pharaoh ordered every Jewish baby boy to be drowned in the Nile River. He hoped this would kill the Jewish lineage forever.

The Jewish people cried out to God for salvation.  God remembered His people and had compassion for them.  In the midst of this massacre, one little Jewish boy was spared.  His name was Moses.

Moses came from the tribe of Levi, the lineage of God’s chosen prophets. The young Hebrew baby was miraculously placed into the Pharaoh’s very own household!  Throughout the years, Moses grew strong and had favor and good standing with the Egyptians. But, God never let him forget his people or their suffering. In God’s perfect time, Moses’s passion for the freedom of the Jews would help deliver God’s nation from slavery.

Sedar plate

The time for freedom had come. So, God appeared to Moses in the midst of a burning bush that wasn’t consumed by the flames. He instructed Moses to demand that Pharaoh free the Hebrew slaves. Moses was fearful for himself, but he obeyed anyway.

This request from Moses outraged the Pharaoh. The Egyptian ruler believed and acted as if he was more powerful than the Almighty God! But, Moses grew in bravery and confidence. He continued demanding freedom for the Jews.  He did this ten times. Each time, Pharaoh defiantly retorted back with a furious “No!” He too did this ten times.

Each time Pharaoh refused to allow the Jewish people to leave captivity, a plague was placed upon the land of Egypt. Miraculously, God allowed all  plagues to pass over the Jewish people. Not one Jewish family was touched with disaster or strife.

Passover meals

Before the last and most horrific plague of all, God instructed Moses to have each Israelite sacrifice a perfect lamb—one without spot or blemish.  The bones of this perfect lamb were not to be broken.  God commanded His people:

“Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.” Exodus 12:11

Then, Moses instructed all Hebrew families to cover the doorposts of their homes with the blood of the sacrificial lamb. Any home that did not obey; would not have God’s protection.

“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn-both men and animals-and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt.  I am the Lord.” Exodus 12:12

This is the story of God’s provision for the Jewish nation and the powerful prophetic symbols of the Messiah that was to come.

sedar plate

The Messianic Symbols in the Passover

1. What is the meaning of the karpas? (the greens) and salt water)

The Karpas are a reminder of the hyssop branches that were used to apply the blood of the Passover lambs. This blood was put over the entryway of the Jewish people that were captive in Egypt.  The angel of death saw the blood covering and ‘passed over’ those houses, sparing the lives of the firstborn sons.  Any home that did not have the blood displayed for all to see lost their firstborn boy.

The color green represents the color of life and growing things. It also represents the vibrant will of the Jews while living amongst hopeless circumstances.

The saltwater represents the tears of sorrow shed by our ancestors when they were captive in Egypt.

Y’shua was the branch from the root of David. His sacrifice breathes life into those who feel like the walking dead because of the weight of sin and the sorrow it brings.2. What is the meaning of the hazeret? (the root of the bitter herb)

It is a reminder of how bitterness can travel to the very root of our souls.  Everyone is a slave to sin and the result of sin is always bitterness.  Jesus the Messiah is the only one who can offer sweet freedom from the chains of sin.  He alone can uproot our sin.  He alone can set us free.

3.  What is the meaning of the maror? (the bitter herb itself)

This is a reminder of the embittered life that God’s people endured when they were slaves in Egypt.

4.What is the meaning of the charoset?

The charoset symbolizes the mortar that went into the building structures the Hebrew slaves built for Pharaoh.  The reason the charoset tastes sweet is because God wanted His people to remember that even the bitterest of our labors can be sweet, when we know and cling to the promise of God’s redemption.

Y’shua suffered the pain of the cross so we could have the sweet redemption of forgiveness of sin.

5. What is the meaning of the beitzah? (brown egg)

The beitzah is brown to represent roasting.  It reminds us of the chagigah (the festival sacrifice made at the Temple in Jerusalem.)

Passover traditions

Today, many people mourn this symbol because the Temple is no longer standing.  People who long to make sacrifices to atone for their sins feel such lack. But, Y’shua’s sacrifice opened the way for every man to have direct communion with God.  God’s people are the living temples of the living God.

The prophet Daniel predicted Messiah would first have to die as our sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world and shorty after, the Holy Temple would be destroyed.  (Y’shua was sacrificed and rose again in A. D. 32. In A.D. 70 the great Jewish Temple was destroyed.)

There are many Jewish people who are no longer saddened by the loss of the Holy Temple. These are the ones who have accepted Jesus as the atonement lamb for their sins rejoice. Messiah was the final chagigah for our sins. Since Y’shua’s final chagigah, there is no longer a reason for tears to be shed. Dip the egg in the saltwater to symbolize tears of JOY for Messiah Y’shuah’s sacrifice, provision and the freedom through Him.

6.What is the meaning of the z’roa (the shank bone of the lamb)

It is ironic that Passover is also called the feast of the Passover Lamb, yet lamb is never served during Passover. The z’roa is a reminder of those first Passover lambs that were sacrificed on the night of our redemption.

Y’shua is the perfect and blameless lamb that was the final sacrifice for the sins of the world.

7. What is the meaning of the matzah? (the unleavened bread?

The Jewish people were in haste when God brought them out of Egypt.  There was not a moment to spare! The people didn’t even have time to wait for their bread to rise. Today, we eat the unleavened matzah in remembrance of this.  The matzah is also like our Messiah, Y’shua. He was without leaven (or had no sin).

It is interesting to note the piercing and stripes on the matzah bread.  This symbolizes much of what the prophet Isaiah said about Y’shua:

“But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him and by His stripes we were healed.” Isaiah 53:5

God miraculously provided manna in the wilderness when the Jewish people left Egypt to go to the Promised Land.  Y’shua is the bread of life.  He promises to satisfy our longing souls forever.

Breaking of the Matzah:

There are three parts toe the matzah tash (the zippered bag that holds the Matzah).  It is also called the ‘unity’.

Unity represents different things to different people.

To some:

*It represents the patriarchs of the faith; Abraham, Issac and Jacob.

*It represents the unity of worship in Israel; the Priests, the Levites and the congregation.

*It represents the unity of crowns; the crown of learning, the crown of priesthood and the crown of kingship.

*It represents the unity of the Godhead; God the Father, God the Son (Y’shua) and God the Holy Spirit. One yet three, three yet one.

*Break the middle matzah in two and return half to the matzah tash.  The middle matzah that has been removed is now called the afikoman. The afikoman is wrapped in linen and hidden for a time. Later, the children will search for it and the one who finds it will receive a reward.

-The leader then instructs the children to close their eyes while the afikoman is hidden.

Jesus the jewish messiah

The word Afikoman means ‘that which comes after’, ‘that which makes things complete’ or the ‘coming one’.

The Afikoman was the bread Y’shua gave to His disciples after the Passover meal. These are Y’shua’s words:

“I am the bread of life; he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” John 6:35

Holding up the matzah, say this prayer:

“Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for this bread that is the reminder of our ancestor’s affliction.  Our people were once slaves and now we are free. 

Persecution for us has never completely died out.  Many are in need of safety and basic necessities. Our Lord of compassion and mercy meet the needs of your people and hear their cry.  Convict the hearts of those who are blessed to remember those who still suffer.  Let mitzvah fill our hearts to bless those who are less fortunate.  We are not given blessings to hold them back.

Let all those who do not have assurance that their sins are forgiven see that Y’shua is the final Passover Lamb.  He can set the captives of sin free. All can have redemption through Him. Let those who are weary lean on you for comfort and rest. In Y’shua’s name Amen.”

crossing jordan

The four questions (Ma Nishtana):

  1. On all other nights we eat all kinds of bread.  Why on this night do we only eat Matzah?
  2. On all other nights we eat a variety of vegetables.  Why on this night do we only eat bitter herbs?
  3. On all other nights we do not dip our foods even once.  Why on this night do we dip twice? (Karpas into salt water and maror into charoset)
  4. On all other night we either sit or recline at the table.  Why on this night do we only recline?

According to the Talmud, when all men stand before the judgment seat of God, He will have four questions for us:

  1. Were we honest in business?
  2. Did we make time to study His words of instruction?
  3. Did we build up and encourage family life?
  4. Have we hoped for our salvation?

Answers for the Ma Nishtana:

  1. We eat Matzah in honor of our ancestors who were on the run from Egypt.
  2.  We eat bitter herbs in remembrance of the bitter times of slavery.
  3.  We dip to remember the tears and the labor and the sweet redemption of Y’shua who has freed us from the hardest taskmaster of all: sin.
  4. We recline in celebration that we are no longer slaves on the run. We relax in honor of our ancestor’s pain. By doing this we are honoring the freedom we enjoy today because of God’s miraculous provision.

Passover food

May all who read this come confidently to God’s throne knowing that we have salvation through Y’shua, final Passover Lamb!

*A special thank you to Jews for Jesus for information and inspiration.

Author: Julia Shalom Jordan

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