Pesach – Passover 2014/5774
Have you started cleaning for Pesach? How many times I have been asked this question during the last weeks. I do not know … but it always leaves me with a mixed feeling. I am not against cleaning for Pesach, but the intensity of the questions gives me a kind of backlash: What if we with the same eager would clean ourselves, put out the “old leaven”, make peace with our neighbors, family and friends, make this place a little better place to live …? What if our behavior would be more like “unleavened bread of sincerity and truth”.
Three times a year, according to the Torah, every male should go up to Jerusalem, to the Temple, to celebrate the main festivals: Pesach, Shavu’ot (Feast of Weeks) and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles). Pesach or Passover was, and still is, the most important of these three. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, Jerusalem was overcrowded with pilgrims for Passover. The city doubled or tripled her numbers of inhabitants. According to the Gospels Jesus came to Jerusalem for the festivals, and finally he was in Jerusalem with his disciples for his last Passover, before his death.
A lot could be written about Passover, but a short article like this will not allow that, and I will try to focus on two items. Among the many ingredients on the Seder plate and Passover table, two ingredients are very important: the unleavened bread (matza) and the wine. Four cups of wine are drunk during the Passover meal and Matza should be eaten for eight days. Jesus chooses theses two items, bread and wine, for making a new covenant with his disciples that special Passover night in Jerusalem around the year 30 AD.
One question is asked over and over again at the Passover table: Why are we doing this? Why is this night different from all other nights? Why are we eating unleavened bread or bitter herbs? Why do we dip twice? And why are we leaning while seated?
So why did Jesus choose the wine and the bread for remembering him? Jesus chose the third cup of wine for his special blessing. That cup is called the cup of blessing. “And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying: This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luc 22:20). And about the bread he says: “This is my body, which is given for you” (Luc 22:19). And Jesus adds: “Do this in remembrance of me”.
Do what? Why are the disciples or any believer afterward going to do this? Is it just a matter of remembering him as our Master and Saviour? Maybe we should ask ourselves “the why” like the participants during the Passover meal? Why did Jesus command us to do this?
Jesus used the bread and the wine as symbols for his body and blood which were given out for our salvation. I think we are all called to become “bread and wine”, to give ourselves for the world, to follow the examples of our Master. What Jesus did for us, we are called to do for others.
Do this, two small words, but their message is encompassing.
Hag Pesach sameach, happy Passover! Do this!
Elisabeth E. Levy