the gospel geniza – final

the afikomen and the hidden messiah

The Hagadah was written at exactly the same moment as were the gospels, a generation or two after the destruction of the temple and as a major split in theology and power was underway. Seen from this perspective, the divide between the Wise and Evil sons sets the context.

The wise one, what does he say? “What are the testimonies, the statutes and the laws which the Lord, our God, has commanded you?” You, in turn, shall instruct him in the laws of Passover, [up to] `one is not to eat any dessert after the Passover-lamb Afikomen.

wise son

The wicked one, what does he say? “What is this service to you?!” He says `to you,’ but not to him! By thus excluding himself from the community he has denied that which is fundamental. You, therefore, blunt his teeth and say to him: “It is because of this that the Lord did for me when I left Egypt”; `for me’ – but not for him! If he had been there, he would not have been redeemed!”

evil son

If we ever had any doubts that in the hagaddah we are experiencing the institutionalization of sectarianism writ large.

Since when where any Jews left behind in Egypt?  In the Biblical account, the issue is always with the converse…. The Mixed Multitude as in Exodus 12:38.  The issue had always been that after the Ten Plagues and the Hebrew Slaves leaving with the riches of Egypt, there were opportunist hanger ons who joined the party.

And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.

וְגַם-עֵרֶב רַב, עָלָה אִתָּם, וְצֹאן וּבָקָר, מִקְנֶה כָּבֵד מְאֹד.

It is only with the rise of sects, especially the Christians, that we get the absurd concept, that there were not a few…. Actually there were a majority of Jews that didn’t want to be redeemed from Egypt.  As Rashi writes on Exodus 13:18

that one out of five (חִמִֹשָה) [Israelites] went out, and four fifths [lit., parts of the people] died during the three days of darkness [see Rashi on Exod. 10:22]. — [from Mechilta, Tanchuma, Beshallach 1]

דבר אחר חמושים אחד מחמשה יצאו, וארבעה חלקים מתו בשלשת ימי אפילה

The Evil son, scripted by the Haggadah, claims that now that (Jesus) the Messiah has come, these rites, laws and traditions… the whole story of the Exodus is meaningless.

As Israel Yuval writes: The expression” to dull his teeth” is mentioned in Genesis Rabbah in two contexts, both of them explicitly anti-Christian, and in both cases the expression indicates a complete rejection of the Christian claim. (Two Nations in your Womb, p 76) *

So what is the Jewish Counter-Claim?  This brings us to the question of what does the wise son mean when he references the Afikomen and the rule “do not eat or add anything after the Passover {sacrifice} Afikomen”?

So much of the seder has been popularized and dumbed down for the benefit of our children, that we could be forgiven if we think that holding the matzah high, breaking it in half, hiding it, searching for it and ultimately taking it as the last taste of the Seder ceremony were just so much children’s theatre. The truth is that as the Wise son says… the Afikomen is central to the service, to redemption and to the break with Christianity.

The breaking of the matzah, it’s hiding and ultimate discovery and last taste are part and parcel of the Seder and it’s order.

Kiddush – Wash – Greens – Break – Recite – Wash – Blessing on Bread – Blessing on Matzah – Bitter Herbs – Sandwich – Meal – Hidden Afikomen – Grace After Meal – Hallel – Conclude

seder order

The Seder begins very dramatically with the leader raising the matzoh and saying in the vernacular of 2nd and 3rd century Palestine:

This is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat; whoever is in need, let him come and conduct the Seder of Passover. This year [we are] here; next year in the land of Israel. This year [we are] slaves; next year [we will be] free people.

ha lachma

Robert Eisler in 1925 and after him, David Daube in 1966 from Oxford said the obvious:  “This is the bread of Affliction” comes too close to Jesus’s statement at the Last Supper not to be linked:

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19

“This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” John 6: 50-51

… the lord Jesus in the night in which he was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me Corinthians 11: 23 – 25

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. Matthew 26:26

The authors of the haggadah and the participants in the seder through the middle ages were also certainly aware of the fact that this service, of eating “this bread” and “this wine” had become central to the daily rite of the Eucharist and Communion.

Clearly, some scribes felt uncomfortable with this concept of Transubstantiation, where the bread actually becomes something other than itself and changed the text to Ke’ha Lachma Anya.. this is “like” the bread of affliction. **

But for those who were willing to confront the clear parallel between the emphases on the Bread as something else… we have to admit that there clearly was an earlier shared tradition.  The question is what the Jewish version was?

While a lot of scholarship has been dedicated to this question and no final resolution has been achieved, it is clear to me that in the Rabbis version, not only has the Messiah not come, but… and this is the big “but”, even if and when he/she comes the liberation theology of the Exodus from Egypt will remain intact… nay … primary.

Ben Zoma explained it: “It is said, `That you may remember the day you left Egypt all the days of your life;’ now `the days of your life’ refers to the days, [and the additional word] `all’ indicates the inclusion of the nights!” The sages, however, said: “`The days of your life’ refers to the present-day world; and `all’ indicates the inclusion of the days of Messiah.”

all the days of your life

 

This is where the evil son (the voice of a Christian) went astray… not only in believing that the Messiah had already come, but worse… in believing that as a result, we should dial back the Exodus from Egypt to irrelevance.

The Rabbis on the other hand, reacted to the Christian Claim of the arrival of the Messiah and the transubstantiation of the bread, into a new, and I believe, enlightened conception of the end-of-days.  In the Rabbinic view Egypt rules… the Exodus from Egypt never gets eclipsed or diluted into a metaphor.  Equally important, Israel and Jerusalem (where I write these words) can take on whatever allegorical meaning you wish, but the physical place never gets dislodged.

This IS the bread we ate in Egypt and… this year we are here and next year we are in the Land of Israel.

Both sects (Judaism and Christianity) shared the post-Temple transformation of The Pesach Sacrifice into the Matzah.  That is why the Matzoh bread became the focal point of their disagreement. For Christianity, the Bread became the body of Christ.  It was no longer the Bread of Affliction, but rather the body of the messiah, and just as Egypt became a metaphor, Jerusalem became an Idealized place.. the New Jerusalem.

According to Yuval:

The eating of the afikomen thus signifies the anticipation of the coming of the Messiah, according to the well know rule: “In Nissan we were redeemed, and in Nissan we shall be redeemed in the future.” In accordance with this rule, we may propose a new interpretation of the ancient halakhic prohibition “One does not conclude with an Afikomen following the Passover Sacrifice.” Assuming the messianic symbolism of eating the matzah, as suggested by Jesus’s speech at the Last Supper, this Rabbinic prohibition may have been intended to prevent a separation between eating the afikomen (symbolizing the anticipation of future Redemption) and eating the Passover offering (symbolizing the Exodus from Egypt). (p. 246)

The Rabbis have been burnt and so had Judaism.  The core response to the direction that Christianity has taken messianism, is for the rabbis (at least in the Hagaddah) to dial back their own messianism.

According to Eisler, Daube and Yuval, aphikomen comes from the Greek aphikomenos, that is, “the One who Comes”.  And what do we do with this “One that Comes”?  What do we do with the Messiah?  We bless him, break him, hide him, discover him (as if for the first time) and at the end-of-the day… at midnight…. We finish the seder ….. without him!  There is no Messiah after the Pesach.  The Exodus from Egypt and the return to the Physical land of Israel… is as good as it gets.

Nirtzah [cf Neilah] – the Seder is closed.

epilogue

 

 

dull teethke like

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Filed under Bible, Chosen People, Israel, Jewish jesus, Judaism, Torah

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