March 25, 2013

Let's Talk

At sunset today, Passover begins which is the first of the major Jewish festivals talked about in the Bible.  It celebrates Israel's freedom from bondage in Egypt and serves as a reminder of the importance of continuing to fight for freedom for every generation. Passover is based on the Jewish calendar which is a lunar calendar.  Because as time went on and Jewish people migrated to other parts of the world an extra day was added. This was done so there would not be any confusion when the New Moon appeared.

There are many ways that the Jewish people observe this holiday -- they will eat certain foods and abstain from forbidden foods, they will go to a Seder or go to a synagogue service.  The forbidden foods include anything leavened or anything made with wheat, barley, spelt, rye and oats.  The only exception was Matza (unleavened bread) which is made with matza grain.  The reason is because eating Matza was mandated in the Bible (Exodus 13:7).  Others also eliminate beans, peas and rice.

Tonight for dinner we are going to have a traditional Seder meal which is done on the first night of Passover (some also do this during the second night of Passover as well).  There will be a Seder plate which will have the following foods on it:

maror (bitter herbs - typically horseradish)
karpas (a vegetable like cucumber lettuce, radish, parsley, potato)
chazeret (a second, more bitter vegetable)
charoset (an apple, nut and wine mixture)
zeroa (shankbone)
baytza (a hard-boiled egg)

Each of the foods is symbolic such as Charoset represents the mortar the Children of Israel were forced to make by their Egyptian owners during their enslavement.  The Maror or bitter herbs is used as reminder of the bitter life that the early Israelites led.  And why the shankbone?  Well, it represents the "mighty arm" of God who led Israel to her freedom.

Happy Passover!

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