On the seventh day of Passover, the day the Red Sea was split for the children of Israel, a special meal called the “Meal of Messiah” is celebrated by the Chabad Chasidim.
The tradition of this meal and how it came to be are described to us by the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, in a work of collected speeches. In them he related that it was the founder of the Chasidic movement, the Baal Shem Tov, who initiated the special meal:
The Baal Shem Tov called the last meal of Passover “the Meal of Messiah.” Just as the meals on Shabbat and festivals have special names … likewise the last meal of Passover was called by the Baal Shem Tov “the Meal of Messiah.” (Sichot 109)
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson went on to explain why the meal is held on the last day of Passover:
The Meal of Messiah is held on the last day of Passover because on the last day of Passover, the light and final redemption of our righteous Messiah will be revealed. (Sichot 109).
The Meal of Messiah for Believers in Yeshua
How do we celebrate this special meal? What are some ways in which we as believers can make this day unique to the revelation we have received?
The Meal of Messiah is carried out in much the same way as the first seder meal of Passover: reciting the story of redemption, drinking four cups, and singing songs. The first seder of Passover and the Meal of Messiah, the second seder, are like two bookends. This makes perfect sense, as the redemption from Egypt, celebrated at the first seder, is called the “first redemption,” and it is a type and shadow of the “final redemption” that will be carried out in the Messianic Era by the Messiah, celebrated in the Meal of Messiah.
Because these two redemptions are seen as parallel, we celebrate them in a similar fashion. Like the four cups of the Passover Seder, which according to Jewish teaching each carries a special theme of God’s redeeming Israel from Egypt, so too, the four cups of the Meal of Messiah look forward to the final redemption of the people of Israel and the whole world.
The Meal of Messiah is also marked by a special ceremony recalling the splitting of the Red Sea when songs are sung that remind us of the future redemption. One of these songs is about the giant ox and Leviathan. According to Jewish legend, at the end of days, there will be an epic fight between a giant ox and the Leviathan, and the Messiah will come and use the Leviathan to slaughter the giant ox. Next, according to Jewish legend, we will enjoy a huge feast from the meat of the giant ox and Leviathan and use their skins to build sukkahs. In an ancient third- to fourth-century CE Jewish commentary on Leviticus called Vayikra Rabbah, this feast is described as a meal meant for the righteous to enjoy. All the great heroes of Israel’s past will be there, each recounting the role they played in the grand story of Israel.
During the Meal of Messiah, we also recall the song of Miriam, the sister of Moses. The Chabad Chasidim expect that this song will be sung before the King Messiah, as it is believed that women will greet the Messiah first.
Celebrating the Past and the Future
The Meal of Messiah is an example of two things. First, it portrays the continuous development of the Jewish tradition. The Meal of Messiah shows us that the Jewish people are a living people, who hold strongly to their tradition and past yet look forward to their future. By creating new traditions, we breathe life into the tradition and do not allow it to become stagnant.
Second, it shows that the Jewish people are looking forward to the Messiah. Although the Jewish people as a whole have rejected Yeshua as the Messiah, they still have a messianic expectation and look forward to the coming of the Messiah. This meal shows us that the Messiah is working, even if subtly, among his people. As believers, we can celebrate this meal as a way to remember both the first coming of Yeshua and the final redemption he will bring.
The two seders of the Passover—one to remember the exodus from Egypt and one to remember the future redemption—are powerful and tangible ways to place Messiah and his work, both past and future, in our lives. This meal has held a special place in my family’s celebration of Passover. Because the Meal of Messiah is a recent innovation, it contains a lot of flexibility, so in our family, the meal normally begins in late afternoon and is full of stories and songs about Yeshua, including remarkable legends from early non-canonical Christian writings about the Messianic Era that show just how Jewish the early believers were. Families can find ways to honor the Messiah in this meal that are unique to each of them.
Vine of David has published a Haggadah for the Meal of Messiah that honors the unique contributions made to the meal by the Lubavitch movement but also upholds and centralizes the revelation of Yeshua as the Messiah. We hope this resource can be used by both Messianic Jewish and Messianic Gentile families in ways that uniquely honor the Messiah and his role in the final redemption. To do this, we included within the Haggadah special legends and stories about Yeshua that are not included within the Gospels. We also added great songs taken directly from Gospel passages as well as traditional Jewish messianic songs. Do not worry if you are unfamiliar with the songs, as we have also included a companion CD to teach you the melodies.
I hope that this Passover we can celebrate the Meal of Messiah in Jerusalem with the Messiah himself.