Passover, Shabat, and Feast of Unleavened Bread
Friday night we attended a Passover Seder and meal hosted by our synagogue. It was my privilege to light the candles before the Passover Seder. For me it was especially sweet, as it was not just Passover but Shabat. Because about half the people in attendance had no idea of what the Shabat service means in a home that celebrates the Hebraic roots of our Christian faith, I wanted to share my small knowledge about this lovely and meaningful ritual.
Before I lit the candles I shared what a privilege it is to do this in my own home each Friday night. The Shabat candle lighting is the beginning of the Shabat for each family/home. It is performed by the head female of the household and when I light the candles, I know that in homes all across the nation, the world really, at the sunset hour, candles are being lit in Jewish, Messainic and Hebraic Root homes to welcome in the Sabbath Day. It is that sense of community that I spoke of Passover evening, the connectivity to countless women across the world. I know that many countries are hours ahead of our own time, but think of it like this: One woman somewhere on the other side of the world lights her candles at the sunset hour, and all throughout the next 24 hours, some other woman is lighting a candle as well, as though light were passing from one house to another to herald the beginning of Sabbath day...Isn't that just an awesome vision?
Passover was lovely. We are a very small congregation but we had about 40 guests come to celebrate the feast with us. We had Seder plates on each table and the Rabbi went through the elements of the plates and we all ate of the bitter herbs and the Maror and Matzah. Each element of the Seder plate represents the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and their first steps on the journey to the Promised Land. I think the breaking of the bonds that tied them to slavery is a fitting foretelling of the setting free of those captive by sin, legalism and pain when Christ came. And that's what Passover truly is, a foretelling of the coming Messiah who would set us free.
It was a beautiful evening with lots of good food and children running about underfoot laughing and fellowship with other Christians, but nothing can really surpass the beauty of Passover itself, nor of the Shabat candle lighting service, a solemn but joyous moment in the week.
Passover is followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread which begins at sundown on Passover and goes on for eight days following. This is a time when we remove all yeast from our household. In Orthodox Jewish households this involves a very detailed and thorough cleaning of the home to ensure that not even one stray bread crumb remains. It is not quite so involved for us. We do remove the foods from our home and this does get a tiny bit detailed. It involves the reading of labels and understanding products. Some monthly septic tank treatments are yeast and they too must be removed!
Just as we must search our hearts for sin, seeking out the 'hidden' yeast in our household can be very revealing. But that is the point of this feast. We eat only breads that have no yeast during this eight day period. Many households rely only upon Matzah, a type of bread that has no leavening at all. In our household, we may eat breads that use a non-fermented leavening such as baking soda/baking powder but we will not eat yeast or sour dough leavened breads. It is a fitting reminder during this time that we must guard our hearts and examine them daily.
What a lovely week end and what a lovely time of year to be reminded so fully and well that Jesus came to set us, the captives, free...