Monday, 7 April 2014

Passover - an introduction

Hi Everyone,

Next week (at sunset) is the beginning of our Passover festival. This is when we remember and celebrate the Jewish people's freedom from slavery in Egypt by G-d, through Moses. The history is related in Shemot (Exodus). 

 Today we have gone around the flat removing Chametz (leaven) from the house, as we are not allowed to eat or own this during the festival,because when Jews left Egypt, we did not have enough time to let bread rise; the symbolism is that we are thinking about not letting our pride and arrogance rise like bread; we leave some in the house, for a game and a bit of fun, for on Passover Eve the whole family gets involved in this 'hide and seek'.

Next week we will have the big celebration called the Seder ('order') . As we are Jews not in Israel, we have an extra day to celebrate, so the festival is 8 days and not 7, as in olden times people not living in Israel were never quite sure as to when the festival was to start, so to be on the safe side we get an extra day and therefore we have two of these Cedar meals, as our festivals always centre around G-d,  The Torah, the home, family, friends and includes wine, festivities, symbolism, prayer, thanksgiving. 

The Haggadah 

We also use a  prayer book called haggadah, which recounts the history of the Exodus as well as giving us Psalms and songs to sing, prayers and blessings to say. Included in this are two things that may seem strange but do have symbolism ; firstly we drop a blob of wine, when the plagues of Egypt are mentioned (to remember the suffering of the people of Egypt and especially the death of the Egyptian first born, due to the Pharaoh's stubborn pride and therefore disobeying G-d) and secondly  the youngest of the family will ask the following questions, with the rest of us answering them (because Judaism has a strong emphasis on family):   

Why do we eat unleavened bread (Matzo)?
to recall the fact that Jews had to leave Egypt before they had been able to add yeast to bread.

Why do we eat bitter herbs?
to recall the bitterness of slavery

Why do we eat in a reclining position?
to recall comfort over the discomfort of slavery- NB, nowadays we use cushions instead!

Why do we dip our food in liquid?
we dip potateo into salt water to recall the tears of slavery

The Food 
Our Passover is a big celebration and festival, so therefore our food has to be, like our Shabbat,  well prepared and  'special' (I guess a bit like a Sunday roast or Christmas dinner). But in addition to this and the flowing of wine, as one would expect over an important meal, we also eat and drink the following  (again the symbolism is there) :

  • We each drink Four Cups of wine, at various intervals, to remember and celebrate the fourfold promises to us that G-d made for our freedom and to represent liberty and joy.
  • Matzo (unleavened bread) which is eaten symbolically three times during the meal.
  • A bone of a lamb to represent the last plague, in which Jews had to paint their doors with the blood of a lamb, so that death would pass. 
  • An egg, also to represent sacrifice, but also because unlike other foods an egg gets harder when it is heated up. This represents Jews and our determination not to abandon our faith, even in slavery .
  • Greenery (usually lettuce) to represent new life.
  • Salt water to represent a slave's tears.
  • Charoset (a paste made of apples, nuts, cinnamon and wine) to represent the mortar used by the Israelites to build the palaces of Egypt.
  • An extra cup of wine is placed on the table and the door is left open for Elijah- this is because we Jews believe that the prophet Elijah will reappear to announce the coming of the Messiah and will do so at Pesach (we conclude by saying "next year in Jerusalem").
Oh and it wouldn't be a proper intro, if we didn't have a cheesy and fab song to go with it:


    1. Great introduction Hannah, thanks for that (:

      Liked the song too. Do they have a website ? I think you might have mentioned it before, but I can't remember.

    2. Hannah

      Thanks for this, didn't realise we could post at the same time from different locations?

    3. Hi David,

      The wonders of tech!! Glad you like it xx

    4. Hi Esther,

      E-mailed you the details! Glad you like them as well!


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