My passover connection

Kel prefers the Old Testament over the New One.  He likes it way old school and some of this had rubbed off on me.  We talk every now and then about why as New Testament Christians we often fail to connect our practices with those found in the Old Testament.  I think that we are missing out on some significant truth by practicing mainly NT Traditions.  So, since Kel likes to keep it OT and for the past three years I have prepared a passover feast for the college students we minister to.

The main event of preparing passover is roasting the leg of lamb, and yes I am glad you asked, I have a few pictures of these previous lamb legs.

1) Year one, an “Oh %#&* I have no idea what I am doing” kind of year which involved me thawing a leg of lamb in my bathtub.

Bet you've only had human legs in your bathtub.

2) Year two, I had a better idea what I was doing but I was mostly too tired to be passionate, still the lamb looked better.

Year two, a little rare and sort of bland.s

3) Year three, more prepared, more aromatics, more intentional about passover all around.

this is before it started roasting, while all the delicious herbs were mingling on it.

Before I say any more I want to make it clear that I am not an expert in Jewish tradition or Hebrew culture.  I’m just a gal trying to gain a deeper understanding of the story of God’s people and how it relates to my life in this Holy Week.  What I mean to say is: don’t roast me like a lamb leg if I get something wrong, okay?

At the bottom of this post I will take you through step by step what preparing passover looked like for me, but that’s optional

A traditional passover meal is made up of 15 parts, which represent the 15 steps into the temple.  I am going to focus on the Seder plate.

Also, in case you need context, the Passover is all about remembering when God delivered The Nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt.  They marched out after the tragic 10th plague struck down all the male firstborn of Egypt toting a load of Egyptian treasure and then on to the Red Sea incident.

This is the Seder plate or the K’arah
(somewhere right now a Hebrew nerd (ahem, Kel!) is thinking that technically it would be Krh because Hebrew uses no vowels.  That Hebrew nerd would be right, but needs to get a life)

From Right (starting at the pinkish red Charoset) to left the K’arah is made up of:

Charoset- The charoset is essentially a diced salad of apples, walnuts, cinnamon and wine, and it’s in my opinion the tastiest part of the passover.  The texture represents the mortar used to build the pyramids while we were in slavery in Egypt and the sweet taste represents the sweetness of freedom from slavery.

Maror– A bitter herb, traditionally represented by horseradish, which serves to remind us of the bitterness of enslavement.

Chazeret– A second bitter herb to remember the bitterness of our bondage, traditionally romaine lettuce or celery.  (you may have noticed I used spinach the significance of this is that I was out of Romaine) 

Z’roa– The lamb bone used to remember the blood that was shed for us and the sacrifices that were made to atone from our sin from the beginning of time.

Karpas– Another green vegetable which is dipped into salt water kept in the clear center dish.  The saltiness represents the tears that were shed because of our oppression.  If you remember the Egyptians were in the habit of killing baby hebrews and working adults to the point of death.  There was much to weep about.

Beitzah– A hard boiled egg, which is a symbol of mourning and renewal.  An egg is a symbol of life, as most mammal life starts with an egg, us included.  It is hard boiled to represent the strength and perseverance that we gained during slavery.

The clear glass in the center of the K’arah contains salt water which represents our tears.  

So now you understand a little bit more about what a typical passover meal is like.  I love participating in the practice of preparing passover because it makes me feel more connected to my story.  I am a big believer in sharing stories and in keeping the perspective that our story starts before we were born, with our parents and ancestors who went before us.

Our story as Christians doesn’t begin in the manger, but dates back to the garden and certainly includes the wandering and weeping of the Nation of Israel.  When I roast a passover lamb I think about what it must have been like to roast this meat knowing that I was about to flee the city I had been born in, following on faith into the unknown with military pursuit.  To cook and listen to the weeping of the other women in the city as they discovered their sons dead.

What was it like for the person who prepared this meal for Jesus?  I imagine it was a woman, were her children hanging on her apron?  Was she trying to keep them from burning their little fingers?  Did she have any idea who had really booked that upper room?

I think about that clear bowl in the middle and the tears I would weep if the leaders of my city came for my own son.

Then I always think back to the lamb bone, how it’s fraught with deep meaning.  The sacrifices on our behalf, the blood shed which started with the animals in Eden and ended with the blood of Christ on the cross.

Finally I find myself breathing a prayer of immense thanks for Easter, the key which brings this all together.  I am thankful that I am not waiting for a Messiah anymore.  In passover there is often an Elijah cup, which is used to remind us of the man who brought the prophesy of Messiah.  My Messiah has come, and he beat death, and I have endless hope because of it.

I joke with Kel that I want an empty tomb necklace, an always reminder that death was defeated and we are free.

So although I’m somewhat contemporary, I love tradition and religious practice sometimes.  My human brain needs these feasts and symbols to remind me of who God is and what he has done for me.  It’s not the symbols that matter at all, but the God that gave them to us to help us understand.

I hope you connect to passover more, I pray that you see symbols in this Holy Week that strike you with the truth of God and shake things up for you.

Be Blessed, I pray.

My Passover Prep in Pictures,

The supplies.

Nothing more lovely than some fresh herds. These are about to get rubbed onto the leg of lamb.

Apples, peeled and ready to be made into Charoset.

Pasty mortar like apples, even tastier when soaked in wine.

Listen to the melodious whine of this little guy who just wants a few apples?! Please?

Take a break and have a Hillel sandwich, charoset on matzo. Named Hillel for the rabbi who is credited with this genius idea, at first I thought I made it up. No dice.

Dread the fact that you have to go peel potatoes. Something that the Jewish women of Jesus' day probably didn't have to do. Although they didn't have a food processor and roasted their lamb I'll probably stop whining now, probably.

Boil over potatoes, to keep yourself humble.

The finished roast, which is caramelized and perfect. There was also a red wine sauce but details details..

The beautifully set table with the K'arah (thank you Jessica and Bri!)

Oh Lord on High, give me strength for these dishes.

Oh Lord on High, give me strength for these dishes.

The students enjoying the passover feast, totally worth it.

  • Jill

    Wow Leanne I love this! I am feeling inspired. Hopefully the inspiration carries on to next year when I’ve love to try this myself. Thanks for sharing!!

    • leannepenny

      thanks Jill! I will absolutely collaborate w you on passover next year!

  • Joy

    I so enjoyed reading this!
    I love that you documented everything with pictures so those of us who aren’t as familiar with the tradition could understand it better.
    Let me know if you find that empty tomb necklace 😉
    Blessings during this holy week and always.

    • Lisa K

      I remember the struggle with the first lamb. You have come a long way and this year’s is beautiful. Thank you for sharing the steps. I think it is very meaningful to celebrate the traditions of the past because they got us where we are and Passover is one that really highlights the joy that we should find in Easter. He is Risen!

  • Deanna West Piercy

    I enjoyed reading this. First Pres is hosting a Seder Supper tonight before our Maundy Thursday service. We haven’t done this in many years and I’m looking forward to it. If you are interested in a really, really good book series that will give you great insight into a Jewish family and their customs, I highly recommend “Almonds and Raisins” by Maisie Mosco. I think there are four books in the series. One of my very favorite family sagas.

  • Hannah

    Loved this post!

    • leannepenny

      Thank you Hannah! I need to bring you some lamb next year!