Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Passover seder

Dr. Paul Manuel—1996

(When Dr. Paul and Linda lived in Madison they annually invited friends to celebrate the Passover seder with them. 
This is how Paul would introduce the service.)

God told His people to observe the Passover, and their obeying this command is one way they demonstrate their devotion to Him, as this rabbinic story illustrates. Why is the Exodus from Egypt mentioned in connection with every commandment?
...The matter can be compared to a king, whose friend's son was taken prisoner after the father's death. For the sake of his friend, the king ransomed the young man, though not as a son but as a slave, so that if he should disobey the king at any time, the king could say, "You are my slave." When the lad returned, the king said, "Put on my sandals for me and take my clothes to the bath house," but the young man protested. Then the king took out the bill of sale and said, "You are my slave."
So it was when God redeemed the children of Abraham, His friend, He redeemed them not as children but as slaves. If He imposed decrees upon them and they did not obey, He could say, "You are my slaves." When they went into the desert, He gave them some light and some heavy commands (e.g., Sabbath, sexual purity, fringes, phylacteries), but they began to protest. Then God said, "You are My slaves. I redeemed You on the condition that I would command and you would obey." (Montefiore 1974:117-118)
God's people have been observing the Passover annually for thousands of years, not only as a means of demonstrating their devotion to Him but also as a review of His care for them.

The Passover seder (service) we use today is a traditional one that dates back hundreds of years. We can trace most aspects of the seder at least to the late Second Temple Period, when Jesus ministered, and the major elements we can even trace to the exodus from Egypt that the Passover commemorates. We need two things to conduct the seder: certain symbols of the exodus and the story of the exodus.