The Jewish holiday of Passover celebrates the liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian Slavery. Jews around the world celebrate this traditional eight-day holiday every year. We have first and second-night Seders. We eat Matzo instead of bread. We have first night and last night worship services.
In preparation for the holiday, Jews are commanded to rid their homes of leavened foods-including breads, rolls, bagels, cereals, pastas etc. It is traditional to donate unopened boxes of these foods to those who are hungry. Our congregation hosts a food drive every year collecting for area food banks.
Each year, all over the world, Passover is recalled with the ritual meal where participants of all ages read from a Haggadah. The Hagaddah (Order of the Passover Seder) tells the story of our freedom. The Haggadah tells about how the Jewish people were slaves and then became free. We may use different Haggadahs. Some may have finger puppets and guitars around the table, and some may use Haggadahs that came with Maxwell House Coffee forty years ago. Some read from new Women’s Hagaddahs and some from 21st century updated inclusive Haggadahs with new language and ideas. And some write their own that are just right for those coming to their Seders. Whatever Hagaddah is used, the basic story and many songs and prayers remain the same. The Hagaddah, the story of Passover is our script. We learn the customs, taste the foods, and retell the moments of this dramatic story that concludes in celebration after crossing through the Red Sea.
We begin the Seder by singing about how good and pleasant it is to dwell together. This year same as last year, many of us will still be getting together over Zoom with family and friends and will be calling these gatherings Z’eders as we are still socially distancing due to the COVID pandemic.
We continue, lighting the festival candles with a special blessing-praising God, the candles remind us we must help and not hurt, cause joy and not sorrow, create and not destroy, and help all to be free. We praise God for the gift of Life.
Many Seder meals begin with Matzo Ball Soup, Gefilte Fish, a Hard-Boiled Egg in Salt Water (to remember the tears that were shed, and the egg to signify new beginnings, before the actual meal begins.
A Seder Plate in the center of the table includes ritual symbols of the holiday. These include a roasted lamb shank bone representing the Pesach sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem, recalling the ancient sacrifice of a paschal lamb in the Temple, bitter herbs/horseradish representing the bitterness of slavery, a roasted egg -symbolizing part of the sacrifice in the Temple in Jerusalem, charoset (apples nuts, cinnamon, honey and wine mixture)- representing the mortar and brick used by the slaves, Parsley- representing hope and renewal- this is dipped into saltwater to represent tears, again a symbolic reminder of the pain felt by the Israelites when they were enslaved. Unleavened bread called matzo is served in lieu of bread or rolls, honoring the bread that the Israelites took with them when they left slavery so quickly that it didn’t have time to rise.
We are commanded to eat matzo in lieu of leavened breads, bagels, muffins, rolls, pasta, etc. for the entire eight days of Passover. There are lots of fun recipes to make meals and snacks including chocolate dipped matzo, caramel toffee matzo, matzo pizza, matzo lasagna etc. The “middle matzo” on the table is usually hidden during the meal, for the children to find after the meal. It’s called the Afikomen. Whoever finds it, gets a prize!
During the Passover Seder, we drink four cups of wine or juice. Wine is or symbol of joy and each one of the four cups represents a promise that God made regarding our people’s redemption:
- That God will Free us from the burdens of slavery.
- Deliver us from bondage.
- Redeem us with an outstretched arm.
- And Take us as God’s people.
Two thirds of the story of Passover is shared before the meal is served, with the remainder following the meal and closing with songs and laughter.
If the meal is to be “Kosher for Passover style” it is usually an all dairy, or all meat, meal. Regardless of whether the hosts keep kosher otherwise, meat and dairy are traditionally not offered during the same meal.
Traditionally, the first night Seder is celebrated in one’s home, and the second night Seder is more of a community Seder either at a synagogue, community center, or other larger gathering place. Again, our second night Seder will be online this year.
It is traditional to open one’s home up to those who have never been to a Seder, or have nowhere else to go for Seder, if you have room at your table.
Our temple (or Synagogue) is offering several activities during this eight-night holiday, including services, cooking classes, craft projects, a concert and weekday daily programing by our clergy.
For more information, please see our website www.templerodefshalom.org
Our Temple Rodef Shalom community wishes all who celebrate a “Zissen Pesach” (Joyful and Sweet Passover) and hope that this explanation is helpful to those who are not familiar with this holiday.
This blog post is the expressed opinion of its writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Tysons Interfaith or its members.