Teach Your Children About the Passover
Exodus Unit Study
It’s a great time of year to teach your children about the Passover. This year, Passover will be celebrated from April 19th- April 27th. My interest in the Passover and the Passover Feast (also called the Seder) itself, compelled our little homeschool into a full-blown study of Exodus. The older children completed an Exodus unit study around 18 years ago. Time to revisit this vital portion of the Bible with my younger children!
The word Passover refers to The Angel of the Lord “passing over” Hebrew homes with the blood of an unblemished lamb on their doorposts, and sparing the lives of all firstborns inside. It was the 10th plague on the Egyptians when Pharoah refused to let Moses’ people go. All the firstborn people and animals in the homes of the Egyptians were not passed over, but died instead because they did not have the blood of the lamb on their doorposts that fateful night. Christians know that The Angel of the Lord was Jesus Incarnate (before his life here on earth), and the blood on the doorposts represented the ultimate sacrifice He would make on The Cross. The Passover Feast is observed yearly by Jewish people to commemorate the event. You can read the actual account in Exodus, Chapter 12.
How We Begin Our Bible Studies
I like to begin Bible studies with a movie/book about the story before we delve into the scriptures. Doing this gives my children a visual reference as we read the Bible. It’s also an opportunity to compare the cinematic or storybook versions with the REAL story. For example, Moses was 80 when he led his people out of Egypt. The Spielberg and Charlton Heston versions portray him as a much younger man.
I chose to begin our study of Moses and the Exodus with a book titled More Than Matzah, A Passover Feast of Fun, Facts, and Activities. Part of the “Let’s Celebrate” series, it contains an accurate, illustrated story of The Exodus (the historical event where Moses leads the Hebrews out of Egypt into Israel). However, none of the book or movie versions emphasize my favorite part of the story enough. I love to hear about Moses’ mother, Jochebed. What a courageous woman! She hides her perfect son for three months, then sends him down the Nile river in a tiny basket covered with pitch. Can you imagine? My heart aches for her, but it also rejoices (my favorite part) for her when the Egyptian princess pays her to breastfeed Moses, her own son. I wish someone would have paid me to breastfeed my five children! More Than Matzah also has interesting activities. We’ll be making the Ten Plague Cards today, and putting them in order tomorrow.
After we read chapters one and two of Exodus, we began to study the Passover Feast. I was too excited to wait until we came to that part (Exodus, chapter 12) in the Bible, and I wanted the girls to begin our study with something fun and different. We listened to The Passover, episodes one and two, from Adventures in Odyssey. In the Passover episodes, a present day first-born boy and his dad get lost in Moses’ time. But they don’t die when they’re away from the homes with the blood on the doorposts because they’re under the New Covenant of Jesus’ blood. I love Odyssey’s depiction of that principle. We belong to The Adventures in Odyssey Club, and for around $9 a month we can listen to all the episodes, watch all the videos, and also receive special “Behind the Scenes” and “Club Episodes” for members only. If you join the club, up to 6 family members can download the app and have their own passcodes.
The Passover Feast
Once Gabby and Stella had a firm grasp on the basic Exodus story, and the events of the Passover, it was time to feast. The Seder is usually celebrated for two nights, but for the purposes of our Exodus unit study, we had our feast for an afternoon homeschool lunch.
In my opinion, The Passover Feast is a complicated affair for a non-Jewish person like me to understand. My children and I have read the book, The Devil’s Arithmetic, and seen the movie with Kirsten Dunst. That helped us a lot. It’s about a modern-day, careless girl who has no interest in her family’s observance of the Passover Feast. After drinking too much wine at the feast, she finds herself back in the 1940s, in her deceased aunt’s body. Then, she gets taken by the Nazis to a concentration camp. The story goes on from there, but I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone, so I won’t tell you the rest. Watching this movie began my fascination with the Passover Feast, and the meaning behind the foods on the Seder Plate.
The Seder Plate Foods and Their Meanings
If you would like to read a detailed explanation of the foods on the Seder Plate (a special plate that holds the Passover foods) and what each one represents, or have your own Passover Feast, click here. Although I’m not an expert, here’s a little cheat sheet-of the Seder Plate foods and their meanings-For Dummies;
- lamb shank- sacrifice- Stella made our lamb shanks from construction paper
- roasted egg- circle of life
- bitter herb- the bitterness of slavery-we used parsley
- a second bitter herb (some Jewish people don’t include a second one)- we used horseradish
- fruit/nut salad- represents the mortar in the bricks the Israelites made in Egypt- we used a plum, chesnuts, honey, cinnamon, and pecans
- non-bitter veggies- spring- we used carrots
- salt water -bitter tears of slaves- this is placed on the Passover table, not on the Seder Plate
- matzah bread- the unleavened bread the Egyptians took with them when they fled Egypt- three pieces of this are placed on the Passover table- we bought chocolate-covered matzah
- grape juice-our substitute for wine
Conducting the Passover Feast
Using information from the Chabad.org web site, I bought appropriate foods for our Passover Feast. The real names, and the foods we used to represent each are shown in the first picture of this post. I wish we had a real Seder Plate, but we do not. Paper plates and cupcake holders had to suffice. I substituted a few things for convenience or taste. The chocolate Matzah was irresistible! I made sure the herbs (horseradish and parsley) tasted really bitter. I wanted my children to taste the bitterness of the enslavement of the Israelites, and see the sour looks on their faces when they ate them! Parsley is usually used to represent spring, but I choose it as one of my bitter vegetables, because it tastes terrible when it isn’t chopped.
We began our feast by lighting the candles. I found an online version (there are many variations) of the Haggadah (it’s like a Passover Feast guide book) and used it to go through all 14 parts of the feast. You can print your own here. We used one glass each for our grape juice, but refilled it for the four cups of “wine.” Instead of washing our hands in a basin, I passed around a baby wipe. The chocolate Matzah was good. As tradition demands, we hid half of the middle matzah until the end.
What We Learned
Since I am a Christian, and Orthodox Jews do not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, I used my own words in place of some of those in the Haggadah. I referred to my slavery as the time before I knew Jesus, when I was a slave to sin. The girls and I rejoiced in our current salvation in Jesus Christ. The Passover Feast was lots of fun, but I took its lessons seriously. I was reminded that we are unburdened from the law of the Old Covenant, and covered by the blood of Jesus under his New Covenant. We don’t have to sacrifice unblemished animals, eat Kosher foods, or put blood on the doorposts. If you know Jesus, you are blessed and free indeed because of the sacrifice He made on The Cross.
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