Vol. I No. 3 - SPRING 1989

By: Larry D’Urso

For seven days during the month of April, the important Jewish festival of Passover will be celebrated in Edgewater and around the world.

Passover, or Pesach, is primarily observed at home with the family gathering together for the ceremonial Seder feast. This event occurs, as it has since ancient times, on the eve of Passover, the 14th day of the Jewish month of Nisan. It was on this night sometime during the 1200s B.C. that, according to Scripture, the Israelites were delivered from bondage to freedom.

As the story goes, Pharaoh spurned the warnings of Moses that God would visit plagues on his empire if he refused to allow the enslaved Israelites to leave Egypt. The Seder meal commemorates the night of the tenth plague when each Israelite family killed a lamb and smeared its blood on the door posts of its home as a sign to the angel of death to “pass over” the house, sparing its firstborn from harm. The deaths of all Egyptian firstborn finally caused Pharaoh to release the Israelites who then passed over from slavery to freedom.

The Israelites were also instructed that night to roast the slaughtered lamb whole and to eat in haste. God commanded them to reenact this meal throughout the generations. They were to explain it to their children so that it would be a perpetual memorial of the salvation God had given them.

Thus today’s Seder is flied with rejoicing and thanksgiving. The Haggadah, a book of prayers and benedictions recounting the Exodus, is read aloud during the feast. The foods of the meal are symbolic and are used to explain the story of Passover.

The matzo, or unleavened bread, is a reminder that the Israelites left Egypt in haste and could not wait for the bread to rise. A roasted egg commemorates the burnt offering of thanks made to God.

Bitter herbs symbolize the life of the Israelites in Egypt. A paste of nuts, apples and raisins represents the mortar that they used for Pharaoh’s building projects. The slaughter of the lamb is symbolized by the display of a shank bone, and the tears of the slaves by a dish of salt water.

Although Seder is religious in nature, it proves a beautiful example of how values, tradition and history get orally passed down to children, generation after generation, in a congenial family setting, outside of other institutions like church or state.