1) What is Passover?
Passover is a religious ceremony instituted by the God of the Bible to memorialize the time when He delivered the descendants of Abraham out of slavery in Egypt. Read about it in Chapter 12 of Exodus, the second book of the Bible.
2) Did God really part the Red Sea?
No! Keep in mind that the actual Bible is written partly in Hebrew and partly in Greek, with a few sections of the Tanakh (Old Testament) in Aramaic, a language related to Hebrew. The original Hebrew text says that God parted the yom suph, which should be translated, "Sea of Reeds". As far back as the Septuagint, the translation of the Tanakh into Greek which was completed around 247 B.C.E., this was erroneously translated "the Red Sea".
Records from all around the region indicate that there was a large slave population in Egypt--about 2-3 million people--who were descended from Abraham and who--as a group--left Egypt and moved into Canaan. This happened around the time of Pharoah Ramses II, who started massive building programs, largely accomplished with slave labor.
In Moses' time, there were many marshes filled with reeds that were relatively shallow and relatively narrow. The Bible says that God caused a strong wind to part the Sea of Reeds. The northern Red Sea is about 275 feet (85 meters) at its deepest. A wind strong enough to part the Red Sea would have had to be much stronger than a Category 5 hurricane such as 2005 Hurricane Katrina, the highest category on the Saffir-Simpson scale, having winds exceeding 155 miles per hour. There is no way anyone could have walked in such a wind, especially small animals and young children!
However, water would only need to be about ten feet deep to drown soldiers riding in chariots. (Papyrus reeds grow to about 10 feet.) The important thing is not whether the water was 10 or 15 or 25 feet deep. The important point is that the most powerful army on the planet at the time was totally destroyed by a supernatural God who could control the weather and who took sides and delivered the descendants of Abraham out of slavery--as He had promised.
3) Did God specify the contents of the Passover ceremony?
No. There is a biblical verse that says, "When your children (i.e., descendants) ask about this . . .". But why would descendants ten generations later ask? Israelite leaders interpreted that to indicate that they should set up a program including the relevant questions. That was the Passover ceremony.
4) What is a Seder?
The Hebrew term seder means "order". It is a liturgy, i.e., a set sequence of actions performed and passages recited in a religious ceremony. It has become customary to refer to the overall ceremony as a Seder.
5) Is a modern Seder the same as in the time of Moses or the time of Jesus?
In some respects yes, in some respects no. The Bible specifies that a one-year-old male lamb is to be selected on the tenth of Nisan (the name of a month in the Jewish calendar), be kept essentially as a pet for four days, and then be slaughtered, roasted and eaten in haste while standing and holding a rod in one hand.* Those things are no longer done, although at least choosing, killing and eating the lamb were still done in Jesus' time.
* In ancient times it was common for people to carry a large stick about 5 feet long, called a rod, for various purposes, such as defending themselves against wild animals, climbing rough terrain, etc. The Bible also frequently refers to a "staff". The difference between a rod and a staff is that a staff is shaped like a question mark and is used by shepherds herding sheep and goats. If an animal starts wandering off, the shepherd hooks the hook end around the animal's neck and uses it to guide the animal back into the herd.
6) What is a Haggadah?
The Hebrew term haggadah means "the telling". A haggadah is a script that contains the words to be spoken and that describes the actions to be taken at a Passover Seder.
7) Who wrote the Haggadah?
There is no "the" haggadah. Estimates are that there are about two thousand haggadot (the plural of haggadah). As long as a particular "script" contains the necessary information, it is an acceptable haggadah.
8) What kinds of food are common at a Seder?
Many types of food are common. The main things that are not eaten are:
(a) anything with leaven, such as cakes, muffins
and loaves of bread
9) The Bible specifically says to eat lamb. Why is lamb not eaten?
Traditional (i.e., non-messianic) rabbis hand down legal interpretations of Jewish law. Some time after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E., various rabbis handed down legal decisions holding that because the Bible said to offer sacrifices at the Temple and there was no longer a Temple, lamb should not be eaten at the Passover meal until sacrifices can be offered as ordained by God.
10) Since Messianic Jews try to practice Judaism that is strongly based on the Bible, why don't Messianics eat lamb for the Passover Seder?
The most important goal of Messianic Judaism is reaching Jews with the gospel message. To most Jews, symbols such as a cross, a church steeple, the words "Jesus", "Christ", "Christian", "church", etc., are reminders of people who have beaten, robbed, tortured, murdered, and deported them or their relatives or their ancestors time and time and time again. Most Christians have almost no knowledge of this aspect of Christian history, since it is virtually never mentioned in Christian materials.
Although it is not true, both the historic (gentile) Church and traditional (non-messianic) Judaism have said for centuries, "If you believe in Jesus you're not Jewish." If Messianics want to have any hope whatsoever of being listened to by non-messianic Jews, Messianic Jewish practices have to look similar to modern non-messianic practices.
11) What do the abbreviations B.C.E. and C.E. stand for?
The term B.C. stands for "Before Christ" and A.D. stands for Anno Domini, Latin for the "Year of Our Lord". Because non-Christians do not consider Jesus to be their "Lord", scholars developed the non-religious term "the Common Era", abbreviated C.E. B.C.E. stands for "Before the Common Era."
12) Can I get the haggadah from this site as one file to print out?
Yes. Click here, then click File, Save As, file name haggadah.html, Save as type: Web Page, complete
13) Which spelling is correct: matzah or matzoh? Why do you spell it two ways?
Actually, these are transliterations of Hebrew pronunciation (spelling a word from one language using another language's spelling system). There is no "correct" spelling; both are commonly used and there is no difference in pronunciation.
14) Are there any modern English translations of the Bible available on the Web?
Due to copyright issues, pretty much the only ones available are translations that almost no one uses. Some owners of popular modern English translations have agreed to let www.e-sword.net make downloadable versions available.
A project called the World English Bible (WEB) is in progress. This is an unofficial effort to modernize widely-accepted King James Version updates published in the period of 1880-1901, but large portions of the Old Testament are still not in acceptable modern English.