Passover

PassoverPassover, or Pesah in Hebrew, is a major Jewish holiday, also called “the festival of unleavened bread.” During the eight days of the festival, Jews commemorate God’s deliverance of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, eating only unleavened bre..., or PesachPassover, or Pesah in Hebrew, is a major Jewish holiday, also called “the festival of unleavened bread.” During the eight days of the festival, Jews commemorate God’s deliverance of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, eating only unleavened bre..., is a festival of deliverance, recalling the redemption of the children of IsraelLiterally “Wrestler with God”, Israel is the name given to the Jewish patriarch Jacob and came to refer to the entire nation, bound in an eternal covenant to God. Historically, Jews have continued to regard themselves as the continuation of the ancien... from slavery in Egypt more than three thousand years ago. Lasting seven days in Israel and eight in the DiasporaA Greek word first used in the Hellenistic period, Diaspora refers to the “dispersion” of Jewish communities living in countries other than Israel. Today, the term Diaspora is also used to describe other religious communities, living apart from their ..., Passover is one of the most important holidays in the Jewish year, celebrating the journey of the people of Israel from slavery to freedom and recalling the nation-building experience of the ExodusExodus (or Shmot, meaning “Names”) is the second book of the Five Books of Moses, or the Humash, which relates the narrative of Moses who led the people of Israel in their “exodus” or escape from slavery in Egypt. Israel’s exodus from Egypt has ... from Egypt. In this way, it rejoices in the continuity of the Jewish people from ancient Egypt to the present.

Passover is also called the “Festival of Unleavened Bread” because when MosesMoses was the great Biblical prophet who is credited with leading the people of Israel out of Egyptian bondage and teaching them the divine laws at Sinai. The story of Moses is told in the book of Exodus in the Bible and is also told in the Qur’an, wher... gathered the HebrewHebrew is the ancient language of the Israelites in which the Bible and most of Jewish liturgy is written. people together to lead them out of Egypt, there was little time to prepare for the journey. Rather than baking bread with yeast which would take time to rise, the people made unleavened bread. The eating of only matzahMatzah is the unleavened bread that must be eaten during the eight days of Passover, recalling the bread made in haste as the people of Israel fled from slavery in Egypt., or “unleavened bread,” over the eight-day period is one of the principal observances of Passover. Before Passover, observant Jews will thoroughly clean their homes, getting rid of chametz, anything made with leavening. The search for each and every crumb of chametz has become a lively part of the scrupulous observance of Passover, with some observant communities going through the kitchen with a blowtorch to burn away any crumbs. As the festival approaches, supermarkets stock boxes of matzah for Jewish families to purchase and some Jewish communities gather to participate in matzah-making demonstrations, recalling the labors of their ancestors in the hours before fleeing from Egypt.

On the first two nights of Passover in the Diaspora and the first night in Israel, Jews have a sederThe seder, literally “order” in Hebrew (with the same etymological root as siddur), is the traditional family service, held around the dinner table, that marks the opening of the celebration of Passover. The meal includes special foods, symbols, and n... (literally “order”), a special meal at which friends and family gather around the dinner table and read the HaggadahThe Haggadah is the book containing the Passover seder service, retelling the story of the Jews’ liberation from slavery in Egypt. (“telling”) that recounts the Passover story. People most commonly hold sedersThe seder, literally “order” in Hebrew (with the same etymological root as siddur), is the traditional family service, held around the dinner table, that marks the opening of the celebration of Passover. The meal includes special foods, symbols, and n... at home with their own families and closest friends, for Passover is the most important home ceremony of the Jewish religious year. In the United States today, it is also becoming increasingly common to hold public seders, sometimes using narratives which link Passover themes of oppression and liberation to events happening in today’s world. In Denver, CO for example, women from all branches of JudaismJudaism is the worldview, the way of life, and the religious practice of the Jewish people, living in covenant with God and in response to Torah, the laws and ethics which guide the pattern of Jewish life. Jews today interpret their three thousand year ol... gather for an annual women’s seder which uses an egalitarian Haggadah. In remembering the story of how Jews were released from bondage, they focus on the liberation themes which continue to have relevance in their own lives. This Denver women’s seder has met with such success and generated such enthusiasm that it has grown rapidly, and members have started selling their Haggadah packets so that this kind of seder can be duplicated by others. Increasingly, interfaith seders have gained popularity as opportunities to share elements of Jewish life and history with non-Jewish neighbors and friends.

The seder meal has a distinctive liturgical order and elaborate symbolism. The table is set with a special seat, place setting, and glass of wine for the prophetA prophet is one who communicates a divine message or vision, sometimes calling people to repentance or awakening, sometimes predicting future events. Jews, Christians, and Muslims all look to Hebrew prophets, including Abraham and Moses. Muslims believe ... ElijahElijah was a ninth century BCE Hebrew prophet and visionary. According to tradition, he did not die but was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2). Elijah’s periodic return to eart. has become part of the rabbinical and mystical Jewish traditi.... In the middle of the table is the seder plate, which contains various foods arranged in a particular order. Each food is symbolic of aspects of the Jews’ enslavement. For example, bitter herbs represent the bitterness of slavery, while harosetHaroset is a mixture of finely chopped apples, walnuts, and wine served during the Passover meal and popularly said to symbolize the mortar used by the Israelite slaves in Egypt in building for their oppressors., a mixture of apples, wine and nuts, symbolizes the mortar used by the slaves in building for their Egyptian masters.

The youngest person present reads the Four Questions, beginning with “Why does this night differ from all other nights?” The unfolding story and sequential actions of the meal form a ritual response to these questions, with all gathered around the table reciting the familiar words that express their identity and continuity with the ancient story of redemption. Every generation is to feel that they themselves experienced slavery’s suffering and the joy of liberation: “We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt, and the Lord our GodGod is a term used to refer to the Divine, the Supreme being, Transcendent deity, or Ultimate reality. brought us forth from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. And if the Holy One, blessed be He, had not brought our forefathers forth from Egypt, then we, our children, and our children’s children would still be Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt.” The story and ritual unfold, and toward the end of the liturgy there is a break to enjoy a special meal before the final prayersPrayer is the vocal or silent address to the Divine. It may consist of fixed words, spontaneous words, or rest in silence with no words at all. Some forms of prayer are accompanied with specific postures or gestures, while others are not. and blessings are said.

One of the final rituals of the seder is the children’s search for the afikomen, the matzah hidden by the leader at the beginning of the seder. The interest of the children is sustained to the very end by the promise of the search for the afikomen. This matzah must be found and returned in order to complete the seder after the meal is over. When they find this hidden matzah, the children traditionally bargain with the leader to get money or toys in exchange. After the afikomen is found, the last taste on the lips of those who have observed the seder is the taste of matzah, the unleavened bread of the slaves Moses led to freedom. The evening ends with songs, often including the wistful words, “Next Year in JerusalemJerusalem, the ancient capital of Israel from the time of King David (c. 1000 BCE), was the ritual and spiritual center of the Jewish people for 1,000 years until the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. For Jews, Jerusalem is still the geographical...!”

In ancient Israel, Passover was also one of the three great agricultural festivals, falling on the first full moonThe different phases of the moon’s cycle are significant in some Pagan traditions, especially in Wicca, where the moon is associated with the Goddess. Wiccans believe the inherent spiritual power in nature is greatest on the night of the full moon. They... of the springtime month of Nisan, a time of the first harvest, the barley harvest. Along with SukkotSukkot is a Jewish harvest festival, also known as the festival of “booths.” The booth or sukkah is a temporary dwelling in which the faithful take their meals during the festival. The booths recall the temporary shelters in which the people of Israel... and ShavuotShavuot means “weeks” and is the Jewish festival celebrated seven weeks after Passover. It celebrates the first fruits of the grain harvest and commemorates the revelation of the Torah on Mt. Sinai., this became a time when people would, in the words of the Psalmist, “go up” to the templeA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref... in Jerusalem for the celebration with the first sheaves of the harvest. Seven weeks later comes the festival of Shavuot, the first harvest of wheat. In its historical interpretation, Shavuot became the festival that celebrated the pivotal event in Jewish history following the Exodus from Egypt: God’sGod is a term used to refer to the Divine, the Supreme being, Transcendent deity, or Ultimate reality. revelationRevelation is the gift or disclosure of knowledge, insight, or instruction from God to the human. The term is used in the Jewish tradition to refer to the revelation of Torah, the law; in the Islamic tradition to refer to the revelation of the Qur’an, t... of the TorahThe Old Testament is the term Christians often use for the body of writings that comprise the Hebrew Bible which Jews call Tanakh. on Mount SinaiSinai is the holy mountain on which Moses is said to have received the Torah, and where the people of Israel once again entered into a covenant with God..


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