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THE SEDER SERVICE/PASSOVER CELEBRATION

The Seder Service is a celebration in Jewish homes commemorating the first Passover which was held in homes in Egypt.

■    The first preparation is a thorough house-cleaning by the hostess.
■    Next is a ceremonial search (the Bedikat Chametz) for leaven by the host.  He uses a lighted candle, a wooden spoon, a feather and a napkin. When he finds the last bits of leavened bread, he wraps it in the napkin and says the Kal Hamira--"Now I have rid my house of leaven."
        The napkin and its crumbs are burned.
        NOTE: In the Bible, leaven is usually a symbol of sin.
■    A special set of dishes is used only for this annual event.
■    The hostess cooks a festive meal to be served later in the service.
■    The hostess begins the actual Seder by lighting the candles and chanting a blessing.
■    The table is set with several prescribed items:
        1.    The Seder Plate, a blue-enameled brass dish that has six compartments for the following foods:
            •    The Zeroah, or shank bone of a lamb (no meat). The bone is placed on the plate as a memorial.
            •    The bytzah or haggigah, a hard-boiled egg roasted brown. The egg was not there originally. It is a Babylonian symbol of fertility and may have started during their Babylonian captivity during the 6th century B.C.
            •    Three kinds of "bitter herbs"--the chazereth (whole horseradish root), the maror (freshly ground horseradish), and the karpas (lettuce, parsley, or celery). Bitter herbs remind them of the misery their ancestors suffered.
            •    The charoseth, a sweet mixture of chopped apples, nuts, raisins, cinnamon and wine. Charoseth represents the mortar used in making bricks in Egypt.
            
        2.    A bowl of salt water. Salt water is a reminder of the water of the Red Sea and also of their tears.

        3.    Three matzohs (unleavened cracker-like wafers of bread, pierced and striped during baking). These are in a matzo tash, a square white silk bag having three sections.

                NOTE: For the first 1500 years, they actually sacrificed a lamb, then ate its meat in the Passover meal. When the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed by the Roman Titus in A.D.70, proper sacrifices became impossible.
■    The host has four wine goblets. Sometimes the others also have four, or sometimes their goblets are refilled several times instead. The four goblets represent the four verbs in Exodus 6:6,7,
            I will bring you out; I will deliver you; I will redeem you; I will take you to be my people.
■    There is also an ornate book, the Haggadah  compiled in the 13th century A.D. It describes the service and contains the prayers.

■    Each chair has a pillow, and guests recline or sit comfortably (to show that they're not slaves).
■    The host wears a kitel, a long white robe-like outer garment, symbol of purity. On his head is the miter, a white silk crown-shaped headress.
■    He chants the prayer of sanctification, or kiddush,
            "Blessed are thou, Lord our God, King of the universe, creator of the fruit of the vine."
■    Everyone drinks from the first wine-goblet, “the cup of sanctification."
■    The hostess brings in a small towel and bowl of water for ceremonial hand-washing, used several times in the service, The leader passes out bits of karpas to each person.
■    They all chant,
            "Blessed art thou, Lord our God, King of the universe, who created the fruit of the earth."
■    Everyone dips the karpas into salt water and eats it.
■    Now the leader takes the matzoh tash with its unity (the three matzohs). He removes the middle matzoh, breaks it in half, and hides or buries one half by wrapping it in a white napkin and placing it under a pillow or under the table. The other half is replaced in the matzoh tash. The buried wafer is called the aphikomen.
■    Now it's time for the traditional questions, chanted by the youngest child.
            "Why is this night different from all others?"
            Why do we eat matzohs?
            Why must we have bitter herbs?
            Why do we dip greens into salt water?
            Why do we recline on pillows?"
■    The leader then recites the history of the Hebrew nation, from Abraham to Moses. He tells about the slavery in Egypt and God's deliverance. When he lists the ten plagues, everyone spills a drop of wine into a cup.
■    When the description is over, they all sing and clap a happy song, praising God. They recite Psalms 113 and 114 (the Hallel). Then they drink from the second wine goblet, “the cup of praise.”
■    There's more ceremonial washing and eating matzoh, bitter herbs and sweet charoseth.
■    Now the hostess clears the table of the ceremonial items (but leaves the wine-goblets), and brings out the main dinner of whatever fancy dishes the family enjoys.
■    When the meal is finished, the hostess clears the dishes.
■    Now it's time for the search for the aphikomen, the buried half- matzoh. This is done by the children, who make a game of it. Of course, they all saw the host hide it, so the contest is only ritual. The youngest is usually allowed to find it, and receives a gift.
■    The host breaks off olive-size pieces of matzoh from the aphikomen and distributes them to all. They eat it in a reverent manner. Sometimes there is a blessing.
■    The host now takes the third cup of wine, "the cup of redemption," or "the cup of blessing," and offers the main table grace blessing. (In Jewish tradition, the main blessing comes after the meal.) Then they all drink from the third cup.
■    The fourth wine-goblet hasn't been used until now. This is called "the cup of Elijah." There is also an empty chair, waiting for Elijah to come because of the promise contained at the end of the Old Testament, in Malachi 4:5-6.
            See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.       
■    Messianic expectations run very high among the Jewish people, especially at Passover time. The children of the house then make a ritual of going and looking closely at the cup, to see if Elijah has come and sipped some. One of the children goes to the door, opens it, and looks for Elijah. Everyone says,
            "Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the LORD!"
■    The host then leads in the recitation of the second part of the Hallel -- Psalms 115-118, then the Great Hallel, Psalm 136.
■    Everyone drinks from the fourth cup of wine.
■    After one more prayer of blessing (that contains the phrase "Next year in Jerusalem") the Passover celebration is finished.

THE INVITATION
★    You can't depend on your own goodness to get to Heaven. We've all sinned  (Romans 3:23). Jesus paid the penalty for your sins with His death on the cross and His resurrection (John 3:16).
★    To be forgiven and be guaranteed a place in Heaven, you need to repent of sin, confess that you are a sinner, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ in your heart (Acts 2:21).
★    You can use the following prayer or your own words, but you must actually believe in your heart that your prayer is real:
         Lord Jesus, I believe You are the Son of God. I confess that I have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed.
         Please forgive all my wrongdoing and let me live in relationship with You from now on.
         I receive You as my Savior and recognize that the work You accomplished once and for all on the cross was done on my behalf.
         Thank You for saving me. Help me to live a life that is pleasing to You.
                     In Your name I pray, Amen.

    Rev. Dr. Nicholas J. Gray, Pastor   Broadway Baptist Church   Sedalia, Missouri   2015