Remembering the Exodus

Spring is filled with traditions and rituals reminiscent of new life and rejuvenation. And it all falls right in line with the rebirth of the natural world (flowers are blooming, animals are mating). Coincidence? Perhaps not.

Many of the holidays this time of year are observed and celebrated by people of differing beliefs and religions but all come back to life.

This celebration of life is kicked off with the Mardi Gras, Carnival and Holi festivities that lead into the 40 days of Lent. This period of self-denial lasts right up until Easter – the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus (or a time to hunt for Easter eggs and eat chocolate bunnies).

But there’s a little celebration that falls the week before Easter known as Passover (celebrated this year April 10-18). This week is celebrated by Jews and it is in memory of the Israelites salvation and exodus out of Egypt. There the Israelites were held as slaves until Moses led them out and eventually to the promised land.

The word Passover comes from the final plague God sent upon the Egyptians. God swept over the land and every firstborn son died. But, He warned the Israelites beforehand to mark their doorways with lamb’s blood so He would pass over. Hence the word and celebration, Passover.

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A Seder (meaning order) dinner is eaten the first two nights of the week. The dinner consists of 15 steps (the same number of steps leading to the temple) with the intention of remembering the Israelites journey.

Four glasses of wine (a symbol of freedom) are drunk. Horseradish is eaten to symbolize the bitterness of slavery, an apple mixture for the mortar used to build the pyramids, parsley dipped in salt water for the slaves’ tears, a lamb shank bone for the blood over the doorways, and an egg for new life.

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In addition to the food and wine, there are readings and singing from the Haggadah (meaning narration). The Seder, or narration, is an interesting way to step into another culture’s shoes, even if you don’t know or believe in this story from Judaism’s history. The food is tasty, the wine is flowing, the company is fun!

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