Passover: Part 2 – Torah for Today

Original Broadcast Date: April 11, 2015

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Passover: Part 2 Torah for Today Transcript

Bolotnikov:

Shabbat Shalom, Stan, and to all our listeners, Shabbat Shalom and still Happy Passover, because we were just coming out of the eight-day Passover week, so still Hag Sa’meach.

Beerman:

Yes, yes. That extra that greeting goes out. We want to take some time to look at the connection in our segment today between what we discussed last time with the Passover, particularly in the Old Testament—how Jesus is the lamb and all those things —and the connection between the Old Testament Passover and what we celebrate as Bible believers and Christians in the communion service. What is the origin to that? What is the connection that we have there?

Bolotnikov:

That is very important. Our listeners probably noticed that we are going through our Torah study following the schedule of weekly Parshas. However, during the holidays in Jewish tradition, they take a little break from their regular Torah study. So next week we are going to return to our regular flow and take up the Book of Leviticus again, but on these two Sabbaths, the Torah readings are different. The first day of Pesach is actually held at the synagogue. They study Exodus 12, as we did last week. This Sabbath, they call a “Hol Hamoed.” It’s like the festival day—the last day of the festival. I would say it’s kind of secular, but still a festival. We are using this time. It gives us an opportunity to study more about the Passover.

Beerman:

Sure for our audience to understand the connections there are between what happens in the Old Testament with Passover and what we practice today.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, many people are not aware of these connections because as I said many times, many Christians are raised on the premise that the New Testament goes first, and they miss out on a lot because they don’t understand the origin of certain things.

Beerman:

Yes, there is such a rich background as we look into the historical Biblical record. This background gives meaning and insight into what happens when we celebrate something like communion. Let’s go right off here into Matthew 26. This text is well known among the Gospels for sharing what Jesus does on Passover weekend at the time of the Last Supper. The sequence here in my Bible shows Jesus instituting the Lord’s Supper, and we would commonly say applies to the Christian communion.

This is Matthew 26:26. “And as they were eating (so apparently they have just got into the Passover supper), Jesus took bread, and blessed and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.” So here is the bread being first and “Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sin.”

So what is Jesus doing here? What is he really applying? Is there a connection with Torah and what we read last week and talked about in Exodus 12? Is there really a connection here?

Bolotnikov:

Well there are some interesting things here that you have mentioned, Stan, Yes. I have the New King James Bible open in front of me on my computer, and it says here, ‘’Jesus Institutes the Lord’s Supper.” This is not part of the Bible. This is already a certain mindset, and it’s interesting that the heading is put here. Right away when it comes, “Oh, Lord’s Supper.” Immediately, we picture a huge table inside of the church. To be honest from the Protestant perspective, they call it the Lord’s Supper, but that table is actually an altar, which was traditionally used in what is known in Christian history as the holy liturgy of the Mass, which came into church practice around the 3rd century.

Beerman:

This is relatively late really in terms of its connection with early Christian history actually.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, and the problem is that this institution of the holy liturgy of the mass is based on an absolute misconception of what was going on in that room. We can see this misconception in the art, e.g. Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous painting.

Let’s look at where the problem is. It says right at the beginning here in verse 17, “Now on the first day of the feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus saying, “Where do you want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?” So here is the thing. What are they asking for? And of course even for a Bible believing Protestant where Sola Scriptura is the key…

Beerman:

Yes, that is the foundational too for protestant belief.

Bolotnikov:

Study any Bible. You go to the marginal notes. It sends you back to Exodus 12. So what happens here? You go to verse 26, “As they were eating.” What they were eating? If you go into Exodus 12, the answer is, “They were eating lamb.” So did they actually kill the lamb in that upper room and smear its blood on a door post?

Beerman:

No, we know they didn’t. There is no record of it.

Bolotnikov:

Well first of all, not only is there is no record of it, it would be a gross, transgression of any Torah law, because according to Deuteronomy 12, “You do not bring sacrifice on any place.”

Beerman:

So that would not have been a part of it at all.

Bolotnikov:

Absolutely not, and as we mentioned last Sabbath during the study, Deuteronomy 16 strictly prohibits offering the Passover lamb in your house. So the problem is that they couldn’t have offered the lamb in any other place except the temple.

Beerman:

So that would have taken place sometime, maybe around twilight this day, and they would be eating the lamb. Is that a correct extrapolation of what is going on here?

Bolotnikov:

Well, we have a problem here, and this is why we have to put all the Gospels here. We have the Gospel of Matthew, Gospel of Luke and Gospel of John, and you have to put them all together. The problem is you go into the Gospel of John and find the scene at the Pretoria. The priest didn’t want to enter into Pretoria.

Beerman:

They didn’t want to be unclean.

Bolotnikov:

It says very clearly, “Because they haven’t eaten the Passover lamb.” So we are in trouble here.

Beerman:

Because this is the Thursday night we are talking about basically.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, this is Thursday night. The lamb was not yet sacrificed in the temple. So the main question is what they were eating? If you put all the gospel stories together, you realize they could not have been eating lamb.

Beerman:

So it is begging the question what were they were eating?

Bolotnikov:

Well in order for us to understand, I can even raise more difficulty here—to see, to add more insult to the injury. The insult comes with Luke 21.

Beerman:

He has some interesting different sequences it seems here.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, we have the same description of that supper, but it appears to be slightly different.

Beerman:

It definitely is, when we look at these verses. I will just start reading here New King James version verse 14 and down, “When the hour had come, he sat down and the twelve apostles with him.” Just noting what you have mentioned in our last segment last Sabbath the communal nature, the family nature of the Passover, here he has the twelve with him so it’s consistent with that broader family.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, that is consistent.

Beerman:

“With ferment desire, I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. I say to you I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God. Then he took the cup.” Now, here he starts with the cup, whereas in Matthew he starts with eating it seems.

Bolotnikov:

That is the problem. You are a pastor. You know at the communion service what is going first?

Beerman:

That is always bread.

Bolotnikov:

So they go by Matthew. They don’t go by Luke. So who is more authoritative? See how many questions arise?

Beerman:

Yes, it is an insult to injury.

Bolotnikov:

All of this is because we don’t understand Jewish tradition.

Beerman:

For sure, because it does follow up in verse 19, then he takes the bread, and then he takes a cup. So help us out, Doctor. We need some clarification here.

Bolotnikov:

Okay, we have facts. 1. We have a meal. 2. We have cup, bread, cup. What you have in Luke is cup, and then you have bread, and then cup which is after the supper, so it is kind of consistent with Matthew.

Beerman:

There is no correlation. There is no practice, at least in Christianity, where you do a cup, bread, cup.

Bolotnikov:

And it doesn’t have any correlation with Exodus either, because Exodus 12 has nothing about the cup.

Beerman:

No cup. It’s all about the lamb.

Bolotnikov:

We just discussed that there was no lamb. According to John, there was no lamb sacrifice yet, and as we discussed last time Jesus died on a cross exactly at the time when the lamb was supposed to die. So this last supper happened before, seems like almost 24 hours before the crucifixion and before the sacrifice of the Passover lamb.

Beerman:

So we have to ask, “Where did this come from?” If it is not from Torah—it is not in Exodus 12 and 13; we don’t find it in Leviticus 23. Where did we have it, and how did this happen?

Bolotnikov:

That is Jewish tradition. Any Jew who sees cup, bread, cup and supper in between two cups understands clearly. A Jew immediately recognizes the typical Jewish Passover Seder.

Beerman:

So a Seder. I want to come back on that term in a minute. A lot of people don’t understand what that is. Historically, where does this tradition, which Jesus used, come to into play in Jewish history, because it is not in Torah. So where does it come in?

Bolotnikov:

We see the first record of it in the Mishnah, which is documented Pharisaic tradition. We don’t have time to do this, but if we put the text of the Mishnah and put it against the text of the gospel, all these questions get settled. We immediately understand that there were four cups of wine, which people consumed during this Seder.

Your question is when was it instituted? We don’t exactly know. Some sources show that maybe in the 2nd century BC, but we do know that when the Mishnah documents the order of the Seder, it actually fits very well with the Gospels. The Gospel writers don’t bother to explain it to everybody, because everybody knows what a Passover Seder is.

Beerman:

It is normative by then in any case sometime after the exile or late after the exile from Babylon and so forth or Egypt this comes into play, and it is there. So Seder means?

Bolotnikov:

The Hebrew word for Seder means “the order.” As we discussed last week, the Exodus 12 sacrifice of the lamb in the houses of people in Egypt, with smearing of the blood and the angel destroyer passing by these houses, was a one-time event in history. According to Leviticus, a commemorative festival is instituted with the Passover sacrifice offered at the temple by the evening of Nissan 14, which is the end of the day.

Apparently after the exile from Babylon, after all the problems which Jews had with idolatry (the exile actually took care of this problem), Jewish tradition developed to commemorate the event of Exodus. So at the twilight by the end of Nissan 13 and the beginning of Nissan 14, the families would sit together at a commemorative meal.

The purpose of it is to read the Passover Haggadah, and Haggadah in Hebrew is “the story.” So they read this Haggadah, and they read it in four parts. These four parts are delineated by… they read, they drink a cup, they read, they drink a cup.

Beerman:

So these four cups are related to the reading of this commemorative celebration of the event.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, they just read the story. The first cup is called the cup of sanctification.

Beerman:

That is what I am going to ask you, what are the names of these cups?

Bolotnikov:

The first cup is called the cup of sanctification. It was very typical for early Judaism. You start the Shabbat. You drink the wine and eat the challah, and it is called the Kiddush, the sanctification, to show that this is a holiday. So they drink it. They offer a prayer for blessing. “Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, who allowed us to live until this time,” and then they start reading what is called the pray history. How Abraham did came to Cainan and how then Jacob and his family ended up in Egypt and they get up to the point of Egyptian slavery and how God saves through the plagues, and then they drink that cup which is called the cup of plagues.

Beerman:

Okay so we go from the cup of sanctification, dedication to plagues. So these were the first two.

Bolotnikov:

I don’t know whether or not it was then, but today everybody and the children like it. They just take their pinky finger and they dip it into the vine, and they drip every time they call the name of the plague, flies, gnats, frogs until it goes to the death of the first born. Then at this point the reading breaks, and everybody gets to eat a meal which consists of Matzo (the unleavened bread) and in Ashkenazi Jewish tradition/Eastern European, they have a very strong horseradish for the bitter herbs. Then they have a little bit of a mixture of apple, nuts and raisins, which symbolizes the mortar for the bricks. That is kind of sweet to eliminate the horseradish effect. So that is the meal.

That has nothing to do with the sacrifice. What they do at the end of this meal is pull a piece of matzo bread, usually now it is children looking for it but back then they just pulled the Matzo bread, but the point is that is called the desert.

Beerman:

Okay, the Matzo bread that is the desert.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, not the cake. The after taste that is the idea, and they give a little bit. See what happens if you look at the Book of Matthew, as they were eating Jesus takes the bread and breaks it.

Beerman:

So this could be the after the cup of plagues, or would they be drinking the cup of redemption.

Bolotnikov:

After the cup of plagues there is a meal and after the meal they break this bread. So that’s where Matthew starts. So Luke goes a little bit before, and Luke mentioned they sat. They didn’t sit. Actually they reclined. So Luke starts with the 2nd cup of plagues and Jesus saying something during the 2nd cup. He records that, and then they going to food, and then they break the bread ,and then the 3rd cup which is a cup of redemption where Jesus assigns to it the symbol of his blood. So Jesus uses the symbols of Jewish traditions. The Afikoman, desert matzo—it’s his broken body, and the cup of redemption very nicely, coincidently symbolizes his redemption through his spilt blood.

Beerman:

And that would have been understood pretty clearly by any Jewish reader. As I read through this, it’s not so clear to us because there’s no comment on the first cup and the forth cup and that kind of thing, but that really helps to understand.

Bolotnikov:

Even when you go into the Gethsemane scene, and Jesus says, “Let this cup pass over me,” what’s that? That was the cup of Elijah, which nobody drinks. They put it on this table, and they see it as a cup of God’s wrath. So now we understand that the Jesus has the 5th cup; no one touches it; it was for Elijah to come, but Jesus drank the 5th cup.

Beerman:

Well, this is so elucidating in helping many Bible believers, Christians in particular, to understand what is going on here, why there is a different sequence. Seemingly different traditions in the two books but it’s really harmonious when we understand this.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, it does harmonize everything. When you go into Matthew 26, and it says, “after the 3rd cup,” then it says, “They were singing hymns.”

Beerman:

Yes, and they went out and sang Hallels.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, these are Hallels, and if you understand the Seder and this is a Hallel, you know these are the Psalms with the heading “Hallelujah.” There is 111 and 112, and that is when they drink the 4th cup, which is called the cup of praise. They are kind of full already, and that is where they go and keep singing. And of course, they fall asleep, and Jesus has to deal with a 5th cup of the divine wrath.

Beerman:

How do we correlate this to the Christian community? Is this the same for the Christian community? What would be the different?

Bolotnikov:

Well, I would say this. I believe the Passover Seder is a very important tool to understand what was going on in the Last Supper, but this is not a Torah commandment. No way. As we can see, it is not correlated with Torah. It is Jewish tradition.