Messianic Passover: deliverance, freedom and restoration

By Emily Christensen

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, March 15 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

A Passover seder meal is offered at the Wagner Jewish Community Center in 2010.

Jason Olson, All

My favorite part of Passover is the ecumenical celebration of deliverance from oppression. Gathering with Messianic Jews and experiencing the Seder meal through the lens of LDS doctrine, we unite together to honor the God who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. It is a sharing of history, an effort at peace, and a time of gratitude. It would have been enough for God to rescue us, but He also restores us to the full promises He has made.

Many families and communities also discuss current, personal or political themes of liberation and its implications for all people. Everything points to deliverance from bondage and freedom from oppression and to the hope that we will all be free from what keeps us captive, whether physically or emotionally or spiritually. Celebrating freedom reminds us to use it for good and for the benefit of others.

As with the best celebrations, Passover comes with a fabulous meal stuffed with meaning: the Seder. When the Savior celebrated the “Last Supper” with his disciples, that was the Seder meal of Passover celebrating the deliverance of the Israelite people from bondage in Egypt (Exodus 5 and 7-11). The Seder meal recounts the story, reminding us of our dependence upon God. We are led through mortality (the wilderness) by prophets sent to help the people become holy. There must initially be a setting apart through obedience, such as those who were recommended to paint their doorpost with Lamb’s blood, that qualifies one to begin the spiritual journey. This is an interactive covenant, where the small and simple acts of obedience are my token that I want to be on that journey and my deliverance is His sign to me that He knows my choice.

The Israelites had to leave in such a hurry that there was no time to wait for the bread to rise. Now in preparation for Passover, the house is thoroughly cleaned of any leavening that may still be in the house. This is where we get the term “spring cleaning.” Spiritually from a Messianic perspective, the point is to review our lives in preparation for a greater degree of repentance and notice what needs to be removed, cleansed, or “covered” by the atonement of the Savior. As I prepare to celebrate Passover, I consider what I can do to improve my conscious preparation for partaking of the sacrament each week, and respond to promptings for cleansing from the Spirit this week particularly.

The Kiddush is the first blessing of the Seder meal and is done before each person pours the drink for the next person, around the table. The urchatz is the washing and drying of hands for the person sitting next to you. This is to represent the freedom and majesty we have been given as a covenant people, and how we must treat others with the same generosity and mercy and kindness as we have been given. Kiddush literally means “sanctification,” and it is a blessing that reminds us we must both keep and remember the laws of God. This is how we are sanctified, by both keeping and remembering what He has said. Keeping the law means not doing things we are not supposed to do, and remembering the law means doing the things to prepare ourselves to be obedient. It also represents how we must serve each other and help each other be clean, and in that way points to our pre-mortal covenant: Jehovah promised to atone for us, and we promised to testify of that atonement.

The food is also symbolic. The karpas are herbs, like parsley or lettuce, dipped in salt water or vinegar, and then shaken to see the tears from when the people were still in slavery. The charoset is an apple and nut chutney to remind us of the bricks of clay the Israelites had to make while they were slaves. Later we eat the maror, parsley or romaine with horseradish, to remind us of our bitter experience when in bondage. The sweet chutney is eaten on matzo to remind us how much better redemption is than bondage.

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