Can you believe it? It seems as though the Christmas and Chanukah Holidays were just here…and already its time for Passover and Easter! The evidence has been showing up for weeks on store shelves…the chocolate bunnies, the Matzah. Candy and specialty foods for Seder.
This year, the holidays actually coincide, with Passover beginning on the 6th of April, and Easter Sunday being celebrated on April 8th. This is a holy time of year for Christians and Jews alike.
What is Passover? In my lifetime, I have been to many a Seder at the homes of friends, and one of my favorite snacks this time of year is Matzah with buttah! But, I have never really learned much about the back story of Passover.
Passover is an 8-day festival that runs from the 15th to the 22nd Hebrew month of Nissan. The festival celebrates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. The Pharaohs had enslaved the people of Israel for decades. The story is that God sent a message to the Pharaoh through Moses. He wanted the Pharaoh to release his people, but the Pharaoh refused. God then sent 10 plagues down upon Egypt, which destroyed their livestock and agriculture. At midnight on the 15th of Nissan, the 10th plague was case upon the Egyptians, killing their firstborn. However, this plague “passed over” the houses of the Israelites, sparing their children. The Israelites then had an exodus…leaving so quickly that they did not have time to allow their bread dough to leaven, or rise before they baked it. Thus…the name Passover became synonymous with the period in which this happened, and the Matzah is a symbol of the bread that they baked before fleeing the land.
The best part of Passover is the Seder. It is a wonderful celebration filled with prayer, ritual, family and food that occurs on the first two nights! During the Seder, you eat Matzah (see above), and you also eat bitter herbs to symbolize the bitterness of the slavery of the people of Israel, and you drink four cups of wine (or grape juice), which symbolizes a royal drink that celebrates freedom. During the Seder, the Haggadah is recited. The Haggadah describes the story of the Exodus out of Egypt by the Israelites…and it has been traditionally passed on down through the generations at Passover. Traditional foods such as chicken soup with Matzah balls, turkey and brisket are served. Desserts are creative (remember, no flour, wheat, barley, rye or oats can be used!). Special flour called Matzah meal can be used to create delicious cakes and desserts.
While the Seder is often a gathering of extended family for a holiday meal, some people find themselves without a private Seder to attend. But fear not! There are a few organizations in Westchester that host a Community Seder!
- The Westchester Community for Humanistic Judaism will be offering it’s Annual Seder on April 4, 2012 at 6:30 pm. The Seder will be at the Community Unitarian Church, 478 Rosedale Avenue, White Plains. There will be a service conducted by Rabbi Frank Tamburello with music by Professor Rutch Levy-Schudoff. You can RSVP to this event by emailing Charlotte Klein at [email protected], or by calling (914) 218-8535.
- CHABAD of the Rivertowns will be hosting it’s Annual Passover Community Seder on April 6, 2012 at 7:30pm. It will be held at the CHABAD of the Rivertowns, located at 303 Broadway, Dobbs Ferry, NY. You can find out more information, including RSVP information, at www.chabadrt.org, or by calling (914) 693-6100.