Passover begins the evening of Wednesday, April 5 and continues through Wednesday, April 12, 2023
What Is Passover?
The name “Passover” derives from Moses’ promise that God would “pass over” the homes of Israelites on the evening when firstborn Egyptians were to be slain (Exodus 12:23).
Reform Jews celebrate Passover for seven days.
One of the major elements of Passover is the seder (meaning “order”), a ritual dinner with a prescribed order of prayers, readings and songs that are found in a special book called the Haggadah. Another of the major traditions during Passover is a prohibition against eating chameitz, leavened foods made of wheat, oats, barley, rye and spelt (as well as rice, corn, peas, beans and peanuts in the Ashkenazic tradition). In place of chameitz, Jews are commanded to eat matzah during Passover — an unleavened product of the five grains — which serves as both a reminder of the haste in which the Jews left Egypt (having no time to bake leavened bread) and as a symbol of oppression because it was the food eaten by Jews who were enslaved.
The Conclusion of Passover is one of the four times of year when our community mourns together through the recitation of the memorial prayers in remembrance of those whom we have loved and lost. (The others are Shavuot, Yom Kippur and Sh’mini Atzeret.)
By Rabbi Amy Ehrlich
Spring. New growth. Green things.
The Jewish calendar always ensures that Passover arrives in the spring. Karpas, is most often associated with parsley, but it can be any spring vegetable that is not used later for other parts of the seder. The vivid color affirms that the season has arrived.
To create links between holidays, some begin their preparation for Passover by planting parsley seeds on Tu BiSh’vat, which occurs toward the end of winter. The seasons change quickly as one tends the newly sprouted herb until it grows full enough to be featured on a seder plate.
Karpas, like all food, is reason for blessing. To me, it represents the original partnership between us and God. Having been given the fruit of the earth, it is up to us to care for it and to thank God for such gifts. The responsibility extends to how we care for the environment, as well as planting and harvesting (providing food) for those who cannot get it for themselves.
The original intention of using karpas was to create a moment of curiosity. Is this karpas intended instead of a meal or as a prelude to our dinner? Why do we dip twice when on all other nights we don’t even do it once? As we dip karpas in salt water, we are reminded of earlier “dunks”: first of Joseph’s tunic dipped in blood, which marked the beginning of the Israelite’s journey to Egypt; then of the blood to mark the doorposts, which signaled the conclusion of the Egyptian experience; now in the salt water, emblematic of the tears of slavery and perhaps heralding the tears of joy that will accompany freedom.
The craft of a good seder is in the questions. Not all of them have answers, but we still are required to ask.
Watch A Passover and Easter Greeting of Sacred Song from Seven North American Cantors, including Cantor Mo Glazman
Understanding the Seder
The imperative of the seder is to tell the story: to explore it, probe it, question it and, thus, to make it brilliantly vivid. The Exodus from Egypt is the formative event of the Jewish people, and the aim of the seder is to see ourselves inside this narrative, to relive the experience in the present. The Haggadah embraces many questions, and there are things each family does differently, all to prod our curiosity and provoke discussions that draw us deeper into the sequence of events that take us from slavery to freedom and then to revelation and redemption.
A Passover Seder by the Numbers
By Dr. Mark W. Weisstuch
Zero references to Moses!
One God in heaven and earth.
Double dipping: vegetables in water; maror in charoset.
Breaking the matzah in two.
Three-word acronym for 10 plagues: DeTZaKH, ADaSH, B’ACHaB.
Three core symbols of the seder: paschal lamb, matzah, maror.
Four cups of wine.
The rabbis identified each cup of wine with the fourfold promise of redemption: “God spoke to Moses: Tell the children of Israel: I will bring you out… I will rescue you… I will redeem you… I will take you for me as a people and I will be for you as a God…” (Exodus 6:2-7)
The chronology of the four cups:
1. Takes us to the start of the story — enslavement in Egypt — 3,500 years ago.
2. 210 years forward—the final night of the Jewish people in Egypt.
3. 7 days later—at the shores of the Sea of Reeds.
4. 6 weeks after that at the foot of Mount Sinai.
[Rabbi Nathan Laufer, Leading the Passover Journey, 2005]
Four separate accounts of the Exodus narrative during the Magid section of the seder.
Fifth cup of wine: Cup of Elijah.
Five rabbis discussing the Exodus through the night.
Seven symbols on the seder plate.
Plagues as pairs:
“With a mighty hand”=
“With an outstretched arm”=
“With great fear”=
Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, the 12th century Spanish physician and poet, explained the division of plagues into twos:
Two plagues from the water (blood and frogs from the Nile).
Two plagues from the earth (lice and wild animals).
Two plagues from air-carried infections (plague and boils).
Two plagues from air-carried damages (hailstorms and locusts).
Two plagues from supernatural acts (darkness caused by an eclipse and the plague of the first born).
The calculus of the plagues:
10 plagues in Egypt; 50 plagues at the Red Sea.
Each plague = 4 plagues = 40 plagues in Egypt; 200 plagues at the Red Sea.
Each plague = 5 plagues = 50 plagues in Egypt; 250 plagues at the Red Sea.
1 to 13
“Who knows one?” (etc.):
A re-“counting” of Jewish tradition.
Fourteen parts of the seder:
Kadeish — Sanctification.
Ur’chatz — Washing hands.
Karpas — Dipping vegetables in water.
Yachatz — Breaking the matzah.
Magid — Telling the story.
Rachatzah — Washing the hands.
Motzi-Matzah — Sharing and eating the matzah.
Maror — Eating the bitter herbs.
Korech — Eating maror and matzah together.
Shulchan Aruch — Eating the meal.
Tzafun — Finishing the meal with the afikoman.
Birkat — Reciting the grace after the meal.
Hallel — Praise and meditation.
Nirtzah — Ending of the ceremony.
Beginning the “counting of the Omer”: The countdown to Shavuot.
Magid: Telling the Story
By Rachel Brumberg
Even if all of us were wise, all of us discerning, all of us veteran scholars, and all of us knowledgeable in Torah, it would still be a mitzvah for us to retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt. — Passover Haggadah
The bulk of the Passover Haggadah, and therefore the heart of the Passover seder itself, is the telling of the story of Passover, known in Hebrew as Magid. The story of Passover is the story of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. It is a story of a group of people leaving a life of slavery and oppression in a foreign land and their journey toward becoming a free community with a relationship with God in their own homeland. All the symbols of Passover — the wine, charoset< bitter herbs, matzah — relate back to this story and help reinforce the themes. As indicated in the quote above, no matter our lot in life, we all have an obligation to remember our beginnings; it is our beginning that helps to define who we become. However, looking at Magid itself, you may be include to ask: What’s going on? If the Passover story is about the Israelites’s departure from Egypt, then who are all these rabbis and other random characters? What are they talking about, and how does it relate to us today? Why isn’t good enough to just read the Book of Exodus, eat dinner and be done? We can look to the Haggadah itself to answer these questions: “The more and the longer one expands and embellishes the story, the more commendable.” By including conversations of the rabbis and other lessons, the Magid is showing us how past generations have expounded on the text so that they can make it their own and understand the Exodus as if it were their own personal journey. There is clearly a lesson to be learned from the Haggadah. To continue to make the Passover story, and therefore the seder itself, relevant today, we need to find our own connections to the Exodus story. To that end, we can start asking a series of questions: What story can each of us tell to reinterpret the Passover story as our own? What events from more recent history can be discussed to help us understand this holiday in a new context? What is “enslaving” us, and what are out own personal paths to freedom? And what is the connection between our stories past and present so that we can come together as a community to celebrate our freedom as a people? Beginning to answer these types of questions as you sit around the seder table is in itself a way to connect to our tradition. Furthermore, entering this conversation allows us to participate actively in the mitzvah of retelling the story of the Exodus from Egypt; the longer the conversation, the more commendable the action. [/av_textblock] [/av_cell_one_half][av_cell_one_half av_uid='av-z6vfeu'] [av_heading tag='h3' padding='10' heading='Next Year in Jerusalem!' color='custom-color-heading' style='blockquote classic-quote' custom_font='#1381d6' size='' subheading_active='' subheading_size='15' custom_class='' admin_preview_bg='' av-desktop-hide='' av-medium-hide='' av-small-hide='' av-mini-hide='' av-medium-font-size-title='' av-small-font-size-title='' av-mini-font-size-title='' av-medium-font-size='' av-small-font-size='' av-mini-font-size='' margin='' av_uid='av-t96yee'][/av_heading] [av_textblock size='' font_color='' color='' av-medium-font-size='' av-small-font-size='' av-mini-font-size='' av_uid='av-kzzrstqj' custom_class='' admin_preview_bg=''] By Lori A. Corrsin, Cantor Emerita These words end every seder, giving us hope that next year the world will be at peace. The name Jerusalem means “City of Peace.” It is a vision of our dreams of a world redeemed and our own personal redemption. The seder gives us the opportunity to look at our lives in the sweep of our people’s history. Jews always have longed for a Yerushalayim Shel Malah, a heavenly Jerusalem of safety, peace and freedom. The seder is not just a retelling of the Exodus from Egypt; it is a journey from entrapment and degradation to freedom. But even when we achieve physical freedom, it is not enough. We all need both the purpose and the freedom to realize our individual possibilities. We need to have the opportunity to grow as Jews, reflecting on our beliefs and values. A thoughtful journey through the seder story can give us such insight. It is no accident that we must design our own seder in our own home. The synagogue does not do it for us; we must decide its meaning for ourselves. If we each take the time and energy to search for meaning in this, one of our faith’s most important ceremonies, we can derive great personal rewards. We can come closer to the dream of Jerusalem — not the physical city but the heavenly city. What is your dream of Jerusalem? For me, it is a place of completeness within myself and in the world. For whatever we each are searching, may we find it by the time we return to the seder next year. May we all find our own personal Jerusalem, place of peace. Next year in Jerusalem! 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