Tradition - it’s not just a song from Fiddler on the Roof. It plays an important role in the way Jews observe not just Passover, but many other events as well.
What are some Passover traditions? And where do they come from?
Well, some are interpretations of the Word, while others come directly from the mouth of God.
After 430 years in Egypt of enduring harsh treatment as slaves to the king (the Pharaoh), God used Moses to go before the Pharaoh to ask for the Israelites’ deliverance. Due to the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart, God inflicted 10 plagues before the Pharaoh finally agreed to let the Israelites go.
The Passover observance was commanded by God BEFORE He actually delivered the nation of Israel from the Egyptians, before the 10th plague, the killing of the firstborn in Egypt. Before they were freed, they observed the first Passover Seder. The word “Seder” in Hebrew literally means "order"; “an ordered event, especially the meal eaten on Passover.”
And this day shall become a memorial for you, and you shall observe it as a festival for the LORD, for your generations, as an eternal decree shall you observe it. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove the leaven from your homes ... you shall guard the unleavened bread, because on this very day I will take you out of the land of Egypt; you shall observe this day for your generations as an eternal decree. - Exodus 12:14-17
The details are spelled out in Exodus 12, details that are followed to this day. But there are additional traditions that are followed as well.
Tomorrow, I will share more about the unleavened bread, but today, we’ll go over the items that are found on the Seder plate.
Charoset is mixture of apples, nuts, wine and spices. It is symbolic of the mortar the Jewish slaves made in their building for the Egyptians. It is a mixture of chopped apples, walnuts, honey, cinnamon and red wine. (As children, this was the one thing we looked forward to eating.)
Z’roa is a lamb shankbone. It is symbolic of the Paschal lamb offered as the Passover sacrifice.
Beitzah is hard-boiled egg. The egg is symbolic of both the regular festival sacrifice brought in the days of the Temple, traditionally the food of mourners, as well as a symbol of new life.
Karpas is a vegetable, usually Parsley. The karpas, representing spring, is dipped in salt water to represent the tears of the Israelites under slavery.
Maror is bitter herbs, usually Horseradish. Maror represents the bitter life of the Israelites during the time of their enslavement in Egypt.
Chazeret is a bitter vegetable. Celery or lettuce can be used. It is obligatory to eat Maror or bitter herbs twice at each Seder.
Each of these items, plus glasses of red wine, a plate of 3 matzos, and a cup of salt water, are used during the reading of the Haggadah which not only tells the story from the book of Exodus, but includes songs, instructions for dipping the herbs and sipping the wine, the reading of the Four Questions, and more, all in proper order.
An extra cup of wine is always put on the table because Elijah is expected to come during the Passover, expressing hope that the age of Messiah will return and the sacred Temple will be rebuilt. As Christians, we know that the Messiah did come during the Passover 2000 years ago, and because He was the sacrifice once and for all, the Temple does not need to be rebuilt. It's interesting to me that from the time of the tabernacle through the building of all 3 Temples, the sacrifices were continually made as part of the Law given to Moses. However, since the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., there has not been a sacrifice made. For the last 2000 years, the Jews are unable keep the Law.
The seder ends with a Hallel, a song from Psalm 136. Jesus ended His seder, the last supper, that way too. When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Matt. 26:30