2016-04-20 / Editorials

Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights?

Passover is the celebration of the Jewish people and their liberation more than 3,000 years ago by God from slavery in ancient Egypt, and their freedom as a nation under the leadership of Moses. It commemorates the story of the Exodus as described in the Hebrew Bible, especially in the Book of Exodus, in which the Israelites were freed from slavery under the Pharaohs of Egypt.

This Passover commences at sundown on Friday, April 22 and is one of the most widely observed Jewish holidays.

In the narrative of the Exodus, the Bible tells that God helped the Children of Israel escape from slavery in Egypt by inflicting 10 plagues upon the ancient Egyptians before the Pharaoh would release his Israelite slaves; the 10th and worst of the plagues was the death of the Egyptian first-borns.

The Israelites were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a slaughtered spring lamb and, upon seeing this, the spirit of the Lord knew to “pass over” the first-born in these homes, hence the English name of the holiday.

When the Pharaoh freed the Israelites, it is said that they left in such a hurry that they could not wait for the bread dough to rise (leaven). In commemoration, for the duration of Passover no leavened bread is eaten, for which reason Passover was called the feast of unleavened bread in the Torah or Old Testament. Thus matzo (flat unleavened bread) is eaten during Passover and it is a tradition of the holiday.

The Passover dinner, or Seder, is marked by tradition and symbolism.

The meal begins with the Kiddush or blessing and drinking of the first cup of wine; followed by the washing of the hands and the dipping of the karpas in salt water. Then comes the breaking of the middle matzo; the larger piece becomes the afikoman. Then comes the retelling of the Passover story, including the recital of the Four Questions.

This Passover season is a time for family and friends to rejoice in the freedom and glory of the Jewish people and culture.

Happy Passover!

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