Maggid ben Yoseif / Jerusalem Torah Voice in Exile

6 Nissan 5758 (April 2, 1998)

Revised & Updated 18 Nissan 5761 (April 11, 2001)

The Four Cups

of Pesah Seder

How they could reconcile Orthodox Jews and Joes

 

Is there a way other than the traditional Christian approach to understand the covenant non-Jews have with the God of Israel, which does not add to the enmity and vexation between Jews and non-Jews?  Or put another way, can the ministry and message of Y'shua be limited in its application to non-Jews … at least as far as re-establishing covenant with them is concerned?

 

We submit that the context in which Y'shua instituted the renewal of covenant and his own words which define its purpose and limit its application clarify that the NEW TESTAMENT (reNEWed COVENANT) had then and has today NO REDEMPTIVE RELEVANCE to the Orthodox Torah observant Jewish community. Another way of stating this is that Jews and non-Jews have been divided over the question of Y'shua for the past 1,974 years because NEITHER has understood the Torah foundation for this covenant -- the ORTHODOX Passover Seder AND a means to renew to Torah faith, the NON-JEWISH Assimilation of the Northern Kingdom.

 

Below we offer a means to begin reconciling one of the most devisive and problematic doctrines -- from a Torah point of view -- of the non-Jewish faith which later "deified its founder" and came to be called "Christianity." We offer no defense for the Church or its doctrines, which in many cases have been WILLFULLY imposed to steer its adherents further away from the Truth of Torah and into the arms of the Satanic forces advocating anti-Semitism and clamoring for the genocide of the Jewish race. The Ephraimites among them have additionally sought to eradicate M'nashe (Native Americans and largely the populations in SE Asia with whom America and her allies have fought).  But we do offer a DEFENSE for the "rabbi" -- not the "god" the Church has made him into -- whose teachings have too long been WRONGLY BLAMED for these attrocities.

 

With the HOPE and PRAYER that a crucial PERCEIVED point of departure between Orthodoxy and the "Jewishness" of the rabbis' early followers, can be explained in a way that will neither THREATEN nor UNDERMINE the Orthodox community today and can somehow become a means of unifying those fellow non-Jews who make up the disenfranchized, I humbly offer this re-examination of the Four Cups of the Pesah Seder.

 

What I will relate is against the backdrop of the traditional understanding of the Passover Seder but DOES depart from it. Perhaps DEPARTURE is really too strong a word. Perhaps for the EXILES, the four cups have a slightly ADDED connotation than for the portion of Israel -- mostly the Jewish people -- who are already in covenant with Hashem, already Torah observant and already living in Eretz Yisrael.

 

The seeming DEPARTURE from the Orthodox Seder instituted by the rabbi -- Y'shua -- in initiating his covenant was rather a REVELATION specific to the Assimilation of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, which was at that time KORET (cut-off) from the Covenant with Hashem insituted at Sinai. I contend that this aspect of the Seder had then and has today, absolutely no relevance to the part of Israel which is already Torah observant -- the Jewish people. I also contend that the whole body of Christian "heresy"  is based on a misinterpretation of the events of that night and especially this RENEWAL OF COVENANT, for which Y'shua chose a cup of wine AFTER the Korban Pesah (Passover lamb) was eaten and AFTER the Afikoman was returned and eaten. Before continuing, you should have a Torah understanding of the Afikoman.

 

In other words, there MUST be a way other than the traditional Christian approach to understand the covenant non-Jews have with the God of Israel. Such a covenant should NOT add to the enmity and vexation between two peoples -- Jews and non-Jews. Any attempt to perpetuate such a devisiveness is at counter-purposes with Hashem. Further, the ministry and message of Y'shua limited in its application to the Assimilation, clarifies a "renewal of covenant" -- NOT -- a "new" covenant. And I want to emphatically state again that this reNEWed COVENANT has absolutely no relevance to the Orthodox Torah observant Jewish community ... except perhaps to point their Israelite brethren in the Assimilation back to Hashem, back to Sinai, back to Torah and ultimately back to the family ties with Yehudah.

 

Unfortunately, theological approaches to understand the question of Y'shua's "Passover" that have not been based on the foundation of Torah, or a strict historical-grammatical exegesis of the text, have made the divide wider. So what follows is our attempt at a very strict, very literal historical-grammatical exegesis.

 

The core "blessings" of the Seder date to the EARLY common tradition of drinking four cups of wine. Together with the Torah command to eat the Korban Pesah (Passover sacrifice) with bitter herbs and unleavened bread (Matzot), you have the basic framework around which the ancient SEDER was built. So these four cups ARE the seder (excluding the cup of Eliyahu, which obviously was a later addition since Eliyahu was not around in the days of Moshe.) The four cups are based on Exodus 6:2-8, especially verses 6-8 listed below. Note the words in uppercase and the action verbs which I have also typed uppercase:

 

"God spoke to Moshe and said to him, "I am Hashem. I appeared to Avraham, to Yitzhak and to   Ya'acov as El Shaddai, but with My Name Hashem I did not make Myself known to them. Moreover, I established My COVENANT with them to give them THE LAND OF CANAAN, the land of their sojourning, in which they sojourned. Moreover, I have heard the groan of the Children of Israel whom Egypt enslaves and I have remembered My COVENANT. THEREFORE say to the Children of Israel: "I am Hashem, and HOTZEYTI (I shall take you out) from under the SAVLOT MITZRAYIM (burdens of Egypt); v'HITZALTI (I shall rescue you) from THEIR service; v'GA'ALTI (I shall redeem you) with an outstretched Z’ROAH (arm) and with great judgments. v'LEKACHTI (and I shall take you) to Me for a people v'CHAYITI (and I shall be) a G-d to you; veDA'TEM (and you shall know) that I am Hashem your G-d HAMOTZI (Who takes (you) out) from under the SAVLOT MITZRAYIM (burdens of Egypt). v'HEYVEYTI (and I shall bring you) to the LAND about which NASATI (I raised) My hand to give it to Avraham, Yitzhak and Ya'acov. v'NATATI (and I shall give) it to you as a MORASHAH (heirloom or heritage) -- I am Hashem."

 

Traditionally, these four cups designate the four STAGES of redemption:

 

1) HOTZEYTI (I shall TAKE you OUT)

2) HITZALTI (I shall RESCUE you)

3) GA'ALTI (I shall REDEEM you) Note that THIS REDEMPTION in the context above includes the  Z’ROAH (shankbone) of the Seder plate, which represents the Passover lamb itself, which would be eaten later. This is important to establishing the POINT of REDEMPTION so referred to, below, as the blood of the Passover lamb.

4) LEKACHTI (I shall TAKE you TO me)

 

The fifth cup, often called the "Cup of Eliyahu", which is not drank during the seder is further described as v'HEYVEYTI (and I shall BRING you).

 

But the first four verbs follow in order (SEDER), the first two cups being blessed and drank BEFORE the Korban Pesah (Passover lamb) was eaten and the latter two cups AFTER both the Korban Pesah and the Afikoman.

 

Y'shua seemingly departed from this order (SEDER) when he instituted the "renewed COVENANT in my blood" at the third cup. We will explain shortly that in the progression of these four cups as traditionally understood, this was an extremely inopportune moment to do this. If he had in mind a "renewal of covenant" and his mission as Hashem's shaliah or "agent" to so initiate this covenant, then the fourth cup LEKACHTI -- (and I shall take you) to Me for a people v'CHAYITI (and I shall be) a G-d to you would have been the opportune moment since the COVENANT was not renewed until after the Children of Israel reached Sinai and the REDEMPTION referred to in the third cup clearly applied to the Passover lamb and possibly the miraculous deliverance from Egypt.

 

I want to submit two possibilites of explaining this, which may or may not have any relevance to the House of Yehudah and its established covevant with Hashem.

 

The first possibility is that "HOTZEYTI" (I shall take you out) DESCRIBES FOUR SUBSEQUENT STAGES, adding v'HEYVEYTI (and I shall BRING you) to the land ... as the fourth cup.

 

A good writer knows that if he wants to hold the interest of his readership, he should make some kind of summary statement telling them what the article is about and THEN go back and elaborate.

 

Remember that Moshe is supposed to relate these words of Hashem to the children of Israel in exile in Egypt. When he begins by first reminding them of the COVENANT that Hashem has made with the Patriarchs and adds the "THEREFORE" part, saying, "I am Hashem, and HOTZEYTI (I shall take you out) from under the SAVLOT MITZRAYIM (burdens of Egypt), I can picture the jubilation, cheering and joy that interrupted the rest of Moshe's words to them, which would explain just HOW this miraculous deliverance would occur ... in four steps.

 

Since the expression SAVLOT MITZRAYIM (burdens -- PLURAL) of Egypt is used twice in this passage, here AFTER the HOTZEYTI (the introductory announcement) and again BEFORE Moshe refers to the expression for the cup of Eliyahu, v'HEYVEHTI. In the latter usage of the SAVLOT MITZRAYIM, a phrase which appears to FRAME all the verbs that occur between the two usages, Moshe says, "I am Hashem your G-d HAMOTZI (Who takes (you) out) from under the SAVLOT MITZRAYIM (burdens of Egypt).

 

By using the SAVLOT MITZRAYIM as a frame, if you will, other verbs are drawn into the picture so framed: In addition to  HITZALTI (I shall RESCUE you which now becomes the FIRST CUP), GA'ALTI (I shall REDEEM you which is now the SECOND CUP) and LEKACHTI (I shall TAKE you TO me which is now the THIRD CUP) there are these two other verbs which become candidates for a FOURTH CUP:

 

1) v'CHAYITI (and I shall be) a G-d to you

2) veDA'TEM (and you shall know) that I am Hashem your G-d.

 

However the expression "veDA'TEM (and you shall know) that I am Hashem your G-d" is the preface for the clause which continues "HAMOTZI (Who takes (you) out) from under the SAVLOT MITZRAYIM (burdens of Egypt)." And both v'CHAYITI and veDA'TEM express the same idea (I am your G-d and you will KNOW it).

 

It is one thing to "say" Hashem is your G-d. It is quite something else to KNOW it. So the KNOWING of Hashem, aptly reveals a "fourth stage" in our progression from Rescue, Redemption and Covenant. But the point we are making is that the THIRD cup now becomes the CUP OF COVENANT and the SECOND CUP becomes the cup of REDEMPTION.

 

The second possibility which also brings the cups into the same order (Seder) so that the THIRD CUP, the cup of covenant, is raised by Y'shua is as follows:

 

The first two expressions -- 1) HOTZEYTI (I shall TAKE you OUT) and 2) HITZALTI (I shall RESCUE you) really express the same idea and are a continuation of the same thought. This again, makes GA'ALTI (I shall redeem you) the SECOND CUP and LEKACHTI (I will take you to Me) the THIRD CUP or the cup of covenant.

 

I must admit that I like the first possibility better because in the progression, the REDEMPTION comes before the ACTUAL Exodus.

 

Perhaps Y'shua had a revelation of this SEDER (order) as it applied to the people for whom he was sent -- in his own words, NOT the words of the Church or Christianity or Christian theology -- to the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel, which is how the Prophets describe the Assimilation of the Northern Kingdom. Perhaps it is permitted for the House of Judah (the Jewish people) to place one connotation on the Seder (order) and the House of Joseph (the non-Jewish Assimilation) to place another. We have a precedent in the Talmud for the same offerings to have different significance for each tribe of Israel. Clearly the connotation Yehudah has placed on these cups pertain to the rescue out of Egypt and the ORIGINAL covenant established at Sinai. 

 

Regardless, once we have made a case that the THIRD CUP established the point at which Y'shua instituted his COVENANT with Hashem to his followers, we can go a step further and bring in the Afikomen, keeping in mind the TORAH FOUNDATION for the original covenant -- SINAI.

 

Viewed in the context of what occurred at Sinai, we can discover insights about the Passover seder celebrated by Y'shua with his disciples and his seeming departure from its convention to institute the "RENEWAL" of covenant --WITH HIS OWN BODY AND BLOOD ... one of the most problematic passages in the entire New Testament, which to its credit even the New Testament recognizes as such.  

"He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?  When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? (John 6:55-61)

PLEASE don't think I am falling into the trap of the traditional understanding of "communion" or that this is some kind of "blood redemption fixation." I will submit below a TOTALLY DIFFERENT VIEW which I believe is more in line with the Torah foundation of this covenant -- that Y'shua spoke on behalf of the TORAH itself, that the TORAH then as today was/is the FLESH, the BREAD without leaven from  HEAVEN and the food of LIFE. 

 

With this -- and many other statements in the New Testament deemed "problematic", Y'shua established his identity, NOT as "a god" or "deity,"  but as a Tzaddik who embodied the soul of Torah and BECAME a covenant to the people. 

 

To offer an alternative to the traditional Christology of the Church, which has DEIFIED Y'shua (making him an idol and therefore anathema to the synagogue) we bring the words of the highly respected, even revered 18th Century Jewish tzaddik,  Rebbe Nachman of Breslev:

“If the Tzaddik displays exceptional spiritual powers, the mystery does not lie in some notion of intrinsic superiority.  The spirituality he possesses IS THE SPIRITUALITY OF THE TORAH ITSELF!! – for the Tzaddik is one who has brought his entire being so totally under the dominion of the Torah that his every thought is a Torah thought, every word he says is Torah, and every deed is for the sake of Torah.  This explains why the Rabbis said, “How foolish are the people who rise out of respect before a Sefer Torah (Torah scroll) but will not stand up in honor of a great man (Maccot 22b). For the Tzaddik is one whose every thought, word and deed is a MANIFESTATION OF TORAH. It is in this sense that the Tzaddik is the perfect exemplar of the COVENANT – because the TORAH ITSELF IS THE COVENANT. The Tzaddik does more than merely conform to the letter of the Law.  Even in what is permitted to him, he sanctifies himself to the ultimate degree. It is through his complete devotion to the highest ideals of Torah that the divine power of the Torah shines through him and gives him access to powers unattainable by those who have not reached a similar sanctity.” (From Rabbi Nachman’s Tikkun, Tikkun HaKlali, page 100, compiled and translated by Avraham Greenbaum, Breslov Research Institute, 1984)

Now, so far we have established the POSSIBILITY that Y'shua instituted the renewal of covenant with the THIRD CUP, the cup of COVENANT and that he POSSIBLY spoke as an embodiment of TORAH. We will now offer an explanation for his difficult proclamation: "THIS IS THE BRIT HADASHAH (renewal of covenant) (IN, BY MEANS OF OR WITH) MY BLOOD" ... AFTER ... supper had ended.

 

First, in the Seder (order), the THIRD CUP is blessed and drank AFTER the "Afikoman" is eaten and the Birchat HaMazon (grace after meals) is recited.  In an ORTHODOX seder, it is prohibited to eat anything further after the Afikoman and this "grace" is said.  This is based on what is believed to be an EARLY oral tradition, probably held in common by Northern and Southern kingdoms.  Only after the AFIKOMAN is eaten and grace said is the THIRD cup raised and blessed.

 

Since the reNEWed TESTAMENT makes it clear that Y'shua's institution of covenant occurred AFTER supper had ended, the THIRD cup was POSITIVELY the cup he raised.  It was therefore NOT the cup of redemption (the 2nd cup as we suggest above), but the cup of covenant. Redemption is TOLD in the seder by the Z'roa L'Hashem (shank bone) on the Passover plate, which represents the Passover lamb. This story is told BEFORE the second cup, which we suggest is the cup of Redemption, since the Pesah lamb represented the lamb of redemption.

 

Also, the Orthodox Seder itself allows some leeway to interpret the second cup as the cup of Redemption since the blessing before drinking this cup mentions the word REDEMPTION four times FRAMING the blessing between two mentions before and two after:

 

"Blessed are You, Hashem our G-d, King of the universe, Who REDEEMED us and REDEEMED our ancestors from Egypt and enabled us to reach this night that we may eat matzah and maror. So Hashem our G-d and G-d of our fathers, bring us also to future festivals and holidays in peace, gladdened in the rebuilding of Your city, and joyful at Your service. There we shall eat of the offerings and Passover sacrifices whose blood will gain the sides of Your altar for gracious acceptance. We shall then sing a new song of praise to You for our REDEMPTION and for the liberation of our souls. Blessed are You, Hashem, Who has REDEEMED Israel."

When you say this in Hebrew it really jumps out and imprints your mind because most all blessings begin with the same phrase, "Blessed are You, Hashem our G-d, King of the Universe," and then proceed with the THEME of the blessing, in this case "asher ga'alnu v'ga'al" (who has REDEEMED us and REDEEMED our ancestors). The same is true at the end of the blessing with the words "g'ulateynu" and 'ga'al" (our REDEMPTION and REDEEMED).  The four cups celebrated even by Yehudah may all be STAGES of redemption, but it sure seems that the second cup specifically recognizes Hashem in this context of being THE redeemer.

 

This raises the question of what aspect of the Passover Seder was represented by Y'shua or his "body and blood," (as he stated it, again we suggest in the context of the original context at Sinai which should soon become evident).  And if, as Christianity teaches, it was the Z'roa or shank bone on the Seder plate today, shouldn't the shank bone be raised for this proclamation, "This is my body?"  One might argue that the cup drank after the meal (the Korban Pesah) would symbolize the Korban Pesah but the blessing after the meal is the traditional Birchat Hamazon. No, it seems that the third cup -- as has been understood by the rabbonim, follows the meal and the ceremony of returning the AFIKOMAN as the second part of the Seder.

 

So, Y'shua choose the AFIKOMAN to MYSTICALLY symbolize a BODY.  In the context of the Passover Seder, this is profound. The question is whether the AFIKOMAN and its breaking fits a pattern of anything that occurred during the first Passover? or later at Sinai? Specifically, does the reNEWal of COVENANT with the "sprinkling" of blood fit the pattern of the ESTABLISHMENT of the FIRST covenant at Sinai? (Exodus 24:3-8). See Afikomen.

 

First, we need to understand the essential mechanics of the Covenant at Sinai, (Exodus 24:4-8) in four distinct parts:

 

1) The reading by Moshe of the Mishpatim called the "Book of the Covenant."

2) The consent of the people to DO (Na'ASeH) and OBEY (NiSHMA) (understand or hearken to) these commandments.

3) The declaration of Moses when basins of blood from animals slain by the firstborn males (the priesthood at that time), were brought to him:  "This is the blood of the covenant."

4) The sprinkling of that same blood on the people.

 

For the renewal of covenant instituted by Y'shua to have any validity, it must not depart from this pattern.  This raises the possibility that the AFIKOMAN ties to the Book of the Covenant, which was read immediately before the sprinkling with blood at Sinai in the same way the Afikoman was EATEN before the Cup of Covenant was drank.

 

In other words, Moshe first read the commands of Torah. Israel received these commands and annulled the claim to the same covenant by either ESAU, (from the verb ASAH) and ISHMAEL (from the verb SHAMAH), who refused to DO and refused to HEARKEN. Then Moshe sprinkled the people proclaiming, "This is the blood of the covenant." In renewing the covenant to the descendants of those who like Esau and Ishmael, did not DO or HEARKEN, Y'shua offered himself as the Book of the Covenant (his body) and the Blood of the Covenant (his blood), representing an embodiment of the TORAH, which Hashem said would be magnified and made glorious and which the Northern Kingdom before their exile had counted a "strange thing" thereby "perishing for lack of knowledge."

 

The cross long revered by Christianity, is actually a symbol typifying the PESHA (rebellion) of the Assimilation through their ancestry who looked upon the brazen serpent in the wilderness and were reminded of their REBELLION against Hashem and Moshe and the Torah.  In Y'shua's own words, as Moshe raised the brazen serpent in the wilderness, if I (Y'shua) be lifted up, I will draw men unto me (to Moshe and the Torah).

 

It is hard to mistake that in the context of both the Passover Seder and the analogy to which Y'shua refers concerning the brazen serpent, "he" (Y'shua) typifies the Torah itself, as the "Way, Truth and Life" by which all come to Hashem.  This Torah, according to John 1, existed before Avraham and is the same Torah which his true followers are expected to obey in order to be known by him and Hashem (Matthew 7:22-24).

 

Therefore, the Brit Hadashah (literally the reNEWed TESTAMENT) by definition indicates Y'shua's blood is the "blood of the renewed covenant" but for the Assimilation only. Unlike the prodigal, Israel, faithful Yehudah never was removed from the Covenant in accordance with the promises Hashem made to David and proclaimed in the days of Hosea (Hosea 1:7).

 

Whether you buy these ideas or not and however you celebrate the four cups of the Seder keep in mind that Passover is meant to be a PERSONAL liberation but with a COMMUNITY element. I don't think it is possible to view the Afikoman being broken and hidden away and returning without considering the traditional views related to a return of the larger portion of the EXILE. But the food to bring this about is the TORAH, which the rabbonim say is the ONLY way one can survive exile.

   

Maggid ben Yoseif