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Holiday of Passover begins on Saturday

The holiday of Passover will begin on the 16th of the Hebrew month of Nissan. March 27 on the Gregorian calendar. It is the celebration of Israel’s liberation from slavery to becoming a free people, the giving of the law, and a guide to the establishment of a Jewish nation.

A major theme of the holiday is gratitude. A Hebrew song, Dayenu, expressing our gratitude for G-d’s protection, literally means, “it would have been enough,” referring individually to each of the ten plagues, and the many miracles recorded in the Book of Exodus.

Passover is celebrated eight days. A Seder or festive meal is served the first two nights. A Seder plate is set on the table with symbolic foods we taste as the ancient story of our liberation is told and retold: parsley dipped in salt water to remember the tears our ancestors shed while slaves; charoset, a finely chopped mixture of fruits, and nuts, symbolizing the mortar slaves were forced to make and use in Pharoah’s building projects; horseradish, a reminder of the bitterness of slavery. Matzah, sometimes called the “bread of affliction” is eaten. It is also a reminder of the haste in which the Israelites left Egypt as the women did not have time to allow the dough to rise. It baked in the sun as they carried it on their backs.

Four cups of wine are poured in the course of a Seder. When the ten plagues are read aloud a drop of wine for each plague is removed. While a full cup of wine is a symbol of complete happiness, we are taught that our happiness cannot be complete if others had to die for us to live. So, a second theme of the holiday is compassion, even for an enemy.

A story of four sons is told. It is the wise child who realizes all the miracles that were enacted then was for us as well. We are still grateful.

Among Passover’s heroes and heroines are Egyptian midwives who refused to

execute the Pharoah’s genocidal order to kill the male newborn’s of the Israelite women. According to Exodus, these brave women left Egypt with the Israelites, following Moses out of the land. An important lesson for everyone, Jew and non-Jew–don’t be a bystander.

It took 40 years of wandering in the desert for the generation of slaves to shed the mindset of slavery and become truly free.

Linda Dunn is President of Temple Beth El in Dunkirk.

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