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D8. Observing Passover with Matzah and Bitter Herbs.    [Make a Comment]

We are to eat matzah and bitter herbs on Passover

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed is He):

Exodus 12:3-8 (Maimonides RP158; Meir MP23; Chinuch C6)
Speak to all the assembly of Isra'el and say, 'On the tenth day of this month, each man is to take a lamb or kid for his family, one per household - except that if the household is too small for a whole lamb or kid, then he and his next-door neighbor should share one, dividing it in proportion to the number of people eating it. Your animal must be without defect, a male in its first year, and you may choose it from either the sheep or the goats. You are to keep it until the fourteenth day of the month, and then the entire assembly of the community of Isra'el will slaughter it at dusk. They are to take some of the blood and smear it on the two sides and top of the door-frame at the entrance of the house in which they eat it. That night, they are to eat the meat, roasted in the fire; they are to eat it with matzah and maror.

Exodus 12:18
From the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month until the evening of the twenty-first day, you are to eat matzah.

Leviticus 23:5
In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, between sundown and complete darkness, comes Pesach for ADONAI.

Numbers 9:10-11
Tell the people of Isra'el, 'If any of you now or in future generations is unclean because of a corpse, or if he is on a trip abroad, nevertheless he is to observe Pesach. But he will observe it in the second month on the fourteenth day at dusk. They are to eat it with matzah and maror

Deuteronomy 16:1-2
Observe the month of Aviv, and keep Pesach to ADONAI your God; for in the month of Aviv, ADONAI your God brought you out of Egypt at night. You are to sacrifice the Pesach offering from flock and herd to ADONAI your God in the place where ADONAI will choose to have his name live.

Matthew 26:26
While they were eating, Yeshua took a piece of matzah, made the b'rakhah, broke it, gave it to the talmidim and said, "Take! Eat! This is my body!" (see also, Mark 14:22 and Luke 22:19)

Exodus 12:3-8 gives details of the first Passover that occurred on the 14th day of the first month (on the Jewish lunar calendar), the evening before the Israelites were led out of Egypt. God subsequently commanded the Israelites to keep the Passover as an annual remembrance of their deliverance (Deuteronomy 16:1-2), and Leviticus 23:5 clarifies that Passover is only part of the day, between sundown and complete darkness.

On the original Passover in Egypt, the Israelites were instructed to eat a sacrificed lamb with matzah and bitter herbs (maror). Numbers 9:10-11 is significant here because, by commanding Passover observance a month late under certain circumstances, the point is made that Passover is to be kept each year as a lasting ordinance; it was not just a one-time event.

Lambs were sacrificed on Passover until the destruction of the Second Temple, after which, animal sacrifice could no longer be done. Even had the Temple not been destroyed, it is doubtful that the Passover sacrifice would have continued among the Jewish followers of Yeshua because they understood Him to be their "once and for all" sacrificed lamb. On the other hand, they might have partaken of it as part of a memorial to Yeshua, since we see Paul and other disciples engaged in Temple sacrifices long after the time of Yeshua's death (Acts 21). What remains of Passover observance for Jews today, is that we partake of a seder meal on the evening of Nisan 14, during which we eat unleavened bread and maror (bitter herbs), and abstain from eating (or even possessing) leaven.

There was one Passover meal (described in Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22, and Luke 22:19), at which Yeshua picked up a piece of matzah from the table, broke it, and gave it to the twelve disciples who were with Him, to eat as a memorial of His body that would be broken during the sacrifice He would soon endure. This, along with the wine He also spoke of, I consider to be a new commandment to His disciples (present and future - Jew and Gentile), and not an implementation of the commandment that was given at Sinai.

Observing the Passover (without sacrificing a lamb) is mandatory for Jews and k'rov Yisrael Gentiles. It is optional for other Gentiles who may also want to observe it (albeit in some adaptive manner) as a way of identifying with the Jewish People, and also as an acknowledgement of Passover's prophetic significance that points to Yeshua. Over the centuries, various Jewish halachic practices have developed that define how Passover is observed in Jewish communities. Gentiles who choose to observe Passover may borrow from these, but are free to depart as well, and to develop their own customs and expressions. It should be noted that the historic churches sometimes call the period from Good Friday to Resurrection Sunday "Passover" (Pascha) and do keep it to a degree, but usually without adequate reference to its Passover-Exodus roots in the Torah.

Finally, a word needs to be said about the prohibition to Gentiles recorded in Exodus 12:43-49:

ADONAI said to Moshe and Aharon, "This is the regulation for the Pesach lamb: no foreigner is to eat it. But if anyone has a slave he bought for money, when you have circumcised him, he may eat it. Neither a traveler nor a hired servant may eat it. It is to be eaten in one house. You are not to take any of the meat outside the house, and you are not to break any of its bones. The whole community of Isra'el is to keep it. If a foreigner staying with you wants to observe ADONAI's Pesach, all his males must be circumcised. Then he may take part and observe it; he will be like a citizen of the land. But no uncircumcised person is to eat it. The same teaching is to apply equally to the citizen and to the foreigner living among you."

This prohibition only applies to eating the sacrificed Passover lamb (which we no longer do). It does not apply to the other aspects of Passover observance, so Gentiles are completely free to attend and even conduct Passover sederim.

Maimonides, Meir, and HaChinuch all recognize the requirement to eat matzah on Passover. Meir also says that we must eat matzah, maror, and charoset (a sweet paste-like mixture), and that the matzah we eat must be made of wheat, barley, spelt, oats, or rye. He also says that we are prohibited from eating matzah the day before Passover, so that our appetite for it will be increased. Maimonides and HaChinuch do not mention eating maror, but refer their readers to Tractate Pesachim for other provisions of the Mitzvah. Maimonides and HaChinuch state that it is the evening of the 15th day of Nisan when we are to eat unleavened bread; Meir says it is on the 1st night of Passover when we must eat it, but does not mention the date.


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