Passover is one of the biggest and well-known Jewish holidays. The point of the holiday is for all the Jews to remember when their ancestors were slaves to the Egyptians 3,000 years ago and to celebrate their freedom.
According to the Haggadah (a small book used to guide the celebration of Passover) written by Nanci J. Freedburg, the story of Passover is how the Jewish people moved from the area of Canaan to Egypt in order to find a better supply of food. At first, the Jews were very prosperous, and the number of Jews in Egypt grew quite a bit.
Some time went by and a new Pharaoh came to power, one who was intimidated by the large number of Jews in his country – he was afraid they would turn against him.
The new Pharaoh ordered that all the people of Israel become slaves, ordering them to work day and night to make bricks and build cities. God heard the cries of his people and called Moses to appear before the Pharaoh and demand “…Let my people go!” The Pharaoh listened to Moses but chose not to listen to the message from God.
According to judaism.about.com, God sent 10 plagues upon Egypt after the Pharaoh would not obey His wish. “The tenth plague is where the Jewish holiday of Passover derives its name, because while the Angel of Death visited Egypt it ‘passed over’ Hebrew homes, which had been marked with lambs blood on the doorposts.”
There are many different traditions when it comes to Passover. More Orthodox families have a very long Passover celebration that goes for several hours, while more Reform families have Passover celebrations that last only an hour.
Sinai-temple.org says, “The Book of Exodus says the following, ‘This day shall be to you one of remembrance; you shall celebrate it as a festival throughout the generations…seven days you shall eat unleavened bread…on the first day you shall hold a sacred convocation, and on the seventh day a sacred convocation; no work at all should be done on them…'”
While this is what the Torah says of how long Passover should last, Jews who are more Orthodox will celebrate the first and second day along with the seventh and add an eighth day, so as to make sure they do not miss the correct dates of the holiday.
The Passover celebration is supposed to incorporate all ones senses. You are supposed to see your family and friends and open your eyes to the season of spring, hear the singing of the prayers and listen to the story retold generation to generation, taste the many kinds of food that represents many different things, smell the many different smells of the traditional Passover food and feel the wonder of Passover and the warmth of the Passover candles.
The Passover Seder, another word for service and ceremonial dinner, has many steps to it, some people spend more time on the steps than others but they are generally the same.
Some of the steps include singing different prayers, dipping greens into salt water to remember the tears the Jews cried 3,000 years ago, drink some wine, and break and eat matzah (a flat bread that is meant to remind the Jews that their ancestors did not have time to let their bread rise when they were finally allowed to leave Egypt) while telling the story of Passover. There is some more singing, the Passover dinner and more wine drinking before the celebration is concluded. These are not all the steps as there are many different ones and some follow them differently.
Passover Seder Services will be conducted the whole week of Passover at Synagogue Congregation Kol Ami. For more information visit conkolamil.org or call (801) 484-1501.