We’re entering a very celebrated time of year right now. Spring is a time of renewal and beauty, when the earth begins to flourish, the sun is out a little bit more, and the weather paves the way for the heat of summer. Spring is also a time for celebration in many cultures, but we’re only focusing on this week for now. We hope to provide some insight to a few traditions and celebrations coming up this week.
This week we are going to see several celebrations taking place, as we leave the traditional time for cherry blossom festivals, Easter, and Passover. Passover or Pesach is one of the most widely celebrated Jewish holidays. Passover is observed over seven days beginning on the 15 of the Jewish month of Nisan. (This is usually April.)
The first and second nights are celebrated with a ritual dinner, with a third taking place on the Friday during Passover. These ritual dinners are called Seder, Passover Seder is especially important because it is when the story of the Exodus is passed along.
The centerpiece of the dinner is the Seder Plate, which contains The Zeroah or roasted lamb shank bone symbolizes the paschal sacrifice made the night the ancient Hebrews fled Egypt. Some people think this symbolizes the outstretched arm of God (the Hebrew word zeroah can mean “arm”).
The Baytsah or roasted egg is offered as a sacrificial offering to the second temple, it is also said to represent the Hebrew people, you can burn them, but they will only become tougher.
Maror or “bitter herb” is usually horseradish, and the Chazeret, the secondary bitter herb on the Seder plate is carrots or horseradish greens. These are meant to recall the bitterness of slavery in Egypt, and should to help one reflect on their current enslavements, addictions, or habits.
The Charoset, the opposite of the Maror and Chazeret. A sweet salad of apples, wine, nuts, and cinnamon meant to represent the mortar that Hebrew slaves used to build with in Egypt.
The Karpas can be any spring green, though it is most often parsley, used to represent the freshness of spring, and new beginnings, and nobility. in addition, salt water to represent the tears and sweat of enslavement.
Matzah or unleavened bread plays a big part in the story of the exodus. The Matzot (plural) are placed on the table and covered with a cloth. The traditional number is 3, with a 4th added in recent history to symbolize the struggle of those who are not free to celebrate.
During Seder, the story of the ten plagues and the exodus from Egypt is told. The four youngest in attendance will each ask one of the four questions as part of the Seder, which are preceded by the question “Why is this night different from all other nights?”
The four Questions, which follow, are “Why is it that on all other nights during the year we eat either bread or Matzah, but on this night we eat Matzah?” “Why is it that on all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables, but on this night we eat bitter herbs?” “Why is it on all other nights we do not dip even once, but on this night we dip twice?” “Why is it that on all other nights we eat either sitting or reclining, but on this night we eat in a reclining position?”
Participants usually consume four cups of wine, it is assumed by most that each one corresponds to each of the promises of redemption; “I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you from their slavery, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm, and with great judgments. And I will take you to me for a people.” A cup of wine is left out for Elijah, and the front door left open in the hopes that he will join the family in their celebration.
For those of you celebrating this spring tradition, Chag Sameach! In our next post, we’ll take a closer look at Easter.
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