The Passover Holiday
Solemnity, Abundance and Hope
by Jude Fox
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Passover 2011 (5771) begins just after sundown on Monday, April 18th.
Passover is one of the most observed Jewish Holidays in the Jewish calendar. Preparations may include a rigorous “spring cleaning,” removing all chametz from every nook and corner of the house, the unpacking of passover seder plates and passover dishes, the recollection of a favorite matzah ball soup recipe, or a debate about whether rice or tofu are kosher for Passover.
Whatever the preliminaries, Passover officially begins with a Passover Seder, a ritual meal, which includes the telling of the Jewish exodus from slavery in Egypt to freedom towards the “promised land.” We eat Matzah, as did our ancestors, having had no time to let their bread rise. We dip greens into salt water to recall tears. The centrality of the Jewish Exodus cannot be overstated.
The story of our slavery, the plagues that befell our captors, Moses and our hurried escape to freedom are told and re-told each year so that we never fail to know our past and the humility of bondage. To emphasize the point, the story of the Exodus begins with the “Ma Nishtanah…” of the Four Questions. From youngest to oldest, the story is told generation to generation.
The Pesach seder has emerged in modern Jewish life as more than a lesson in Jewish history. Jews and non-Jews alike have found meaning in the Seder’s call to recognize historical and modern forms of oppression. The many, many haggadot available speak to the universality of the themes of Passover, including compassion for those in our world who are oppressed or enslaved by powers ranging from the political to the personal.
As deeply serious as the Passover story may be, Passover rituals also include the abundance and hope of springtime. From the ornate to the unique to the colorful, Matzoh covers and seder plates customize the seder table to reflect what is hopeful and inspiring to each of us. Modern arists weave the themes of abundance with the ritual traditions of Passover as a tribute to Jewish history and hope of a new season.
In the true spirit of Jewish optimism, a seder table almost always includes a cup of wine for the prophet Elijah. The cup of Elijah represents our commitment to each other, as Elijah represents anyone who is hungry and in need of food. Elijah’s cup also represents our faith in the future, a true redemption of humankind and a time of everlasting peace. Blessings to all for a joyous, peaceful and meaningful holiday!
Passover Seder. Passover Sedar Plates. Jewish Holidays