Passover is the holiday that Jewish people around the world commemorate in remembrance of redemption from slavery in Egypt. This redemption marked the beginning of a new journey; a long and difficult one. The people of Israel wandered throughout the desert led by Moses on their way to the promised Land of Israel. It was on this arduous journey that this once tribe truly became a people. It was in this vast and dry desert that they received the Ten Commandments.
During this season, there are so many stories to hear and lessons to be learned. When I was growing up, we would have our Passover Seder at my grandfather’s house. His name was Ovadia and he made Aliyah (immigrated) to Israel from Kurdistan.
In our family, there was long-held tradition of reading aloud the Haggadah in Aramaic (until my grandfather passed away, then we read it in Hebrew). As children, we were always frustrated by the fact that we couldn’t understand what was being said! However, when it was time to finally read portions in Hebrew, we made sure we were ready and gave this section our utmost attention.
Year after year, as we came to the part where it is written, “The stone which the builders rejected is become the chief cornerstone,” my uncle Yaakov would suddenly stop and read the verse in Hebrew so that everyone could hear loud and clear. Then, he would raise the question to all of those dining at the table, “Does anyone know what the meaning of this verse is?” As children we were never able to remember. We were just kids, why would something like this be of interest to us?
Uncle Yaakov would then proceed to tell us the traditional Jewish interpretation of the intriguing verse. He explained that King David was the youngest son of the Yishai family. He was the son that was sent to herd the sheep while Samuel sought out whom to anoint as king. Ironically, no one actually believed that young David was qualified to be a king. All of his brothers were sent to meet Samuel but, in the end, he chose David. David, although small in stature, became the greatest king of the house of Yishai, the foundation and the root from which the Messiah was born.
Until today, when we are reading as a family from the Haggadah and we arrive at this verse, my brother Ofer and I take a quick glance at one another and laugh as we remember these timeless moments with my uncle. We decided to continue this tradition and pass it on to the next generation. So, as uncle Yaakov would do, we asked all of those sitting around the table, “So, is there anyone here that can tell us the meaning of this verse?” Of course, not a single child spoke up to answer the question. It doesn’t matter how many years go by it still hasn’t found a way to interest the children. Reading this verse aloud in this manner has become a special family tradition that we will continue to pass down to our children.
What’s fascinating is that my interest in the Bible throughout the years has only grown. I’ve read this same verse many times and in different contexts. It’s meaning has become different, deeper than what it was years ago when listening to my uncle tell us about it. I came to realize how wonderous this verse really is and how it is speaking about the future Messiah.
I eventually came to learn that it’s speaking about Yeshua (Jesus), whom our people Israel unknowingly rejected. He became the cornerstone, the one who’s mission was to bring salvation to both Jews and Gentiles. It’s amazing to think how this prophetic verse was already present in my life as a young girl.
Those festive and memorable Seder nights have made lasting impacts on me in two additional ways. First, regarding the joyous songs that we would all sing together in Hebrew from the Haggadah. The second is when all of the children scrambled around the house looking for the Afikoman that my grandfather would hide. He always promised to give a gift to whoever was able to find it.
The child who found it would always place their hope in this promised gift. We dreamed about receiving a bicycle that we were sure finding the Afikoman would bring us. However, grandpa never bought us a bike and it was always a disappointment for us.
In our family today, we make sure to do three things every Seder: we read the Haggadah in Hebrew, sing the songs in Hebrew and give a present to whoever finds the Afikoman.
I’m certain that all of you have plenty of family stories that are connected to the Bible. I would love for you to share with us your own family stories.
Happy Passover to all.