April 21st, 2011
The Matzah Tosh!
If you’ve been to a Passover Seder – you know what I am talking about. As part of the Seder service there are three matzot (plural of matzah – the unleavened bread used at Passover as commanded by God) one on top of the other. Each one is separated from the other by a piece of cloth. In many Jewish homes this is actually done with a partitioned bag – the Matzah Tosh.
It is the middle matzah taken from the tosh that is used for the afikomen. The half of the matzah called the afikomen is buried, so to speak, hidden away somewhere until later on when the children search for it. As a matter of fact, the service can’t officially be concluded until the afikomen is found, since it is the last thing to be eaten at the Seder.
The question is: why and how did this tradition ever start? What is its purpose?
There are a number of rabbinic answers to why the three layers of matzah exist. For instance, one is that the three layers represent the three patriarchs of Israel – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Another explanation is that the three layers represent the three divisions of worship in the Ancient Kingdom of Israel – the Kohanim (Priests), the Levites and the rest of the children of Israel.
There are other explanations, all in the same vein, but they do not answer the very basic question: why is the middle matzah broken, buried, and then brought back? There is little if any explanation for this custom within the Jewish community. So what gives with this tradition?
Well, if we consider that, at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.C.E., up to a third of the population of Jerusalem may have been composed of Jewish believers in Yeshua (Jesus), we might have a viable explanation.
You see, the Matzah Tosh is one in three parts. Just as God has revealed himself as one in three parts. A unity like that which is expressed in Genesis 2:24,
The word used here for “one” is the Hebrew word “echad.” It is the same word used by Moses when he proclaims,
Both passages express the word “one” using the Hebrew word “echad.” Clearly then, “echad” does not necessarily mean a homogeneous “one” as the rabbis like to insist when it comes to describing the nature of God. In both these cases it is referring to a pluralistic “one”.
It is not hard to imagine those early Jewish believers in Yeshua using the three layers in their Seders to represent God as He had revealed himself: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Perhaps because other Jews did not have a huge problem with this concept of God, as modern rabbis do, they liked and began to use this custom.
Perhaps these Jews who had taken on the custom of their believing neighbour did not fully understand why their friends had introduced the tradition of taking the middle matzah out, breaking it, “burying” it and then bringing it back. But the Jewish believers in Yeshua had created the perfect picture of their Saviour.
Yeshua was God come as flesh to fulfill the promises of the prophets. He was the second person of the three-in-one Godhead. In terms of God, only Yeshua was made visible (see John 1:14), just as the afikomen layer is made visible while the other two remain hidden.
Yeshua, like the afikomen, was broken. He died a painful and ignominious death on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven through his sacrifice on our behalf. This too was promised by God through the prophets (see Isaiah 53).
Like the afikomen, Yeshua was buried but was raised up again to life. His children partake of His atonement and His new life, just as those at the Seder table partake of the afikomen.
One question still remains. How could a custom that was begun by Jewish believers actually get into the Passover Seder of traditional rabbinic Judaism and remain there all these many centuries after?
The answer is simple. Though given by Yeshua in a different context, it still holds true: “with God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)”
Contributed by Daniel Muller, General Director of New Covenant Forum.
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