By: Naomi Wuliger
This year, Passover begins sundown on April 5 and ends sundown on April 13, remembering the journey taken by the Israelites thousands of years ago to escape enslavement by the Egyptians. Preceded by the infamous 10 plagues, the Bible explains the departure of the enslaved Jews in order to reach the promised land, where they could live in peace. The Egyptian Pharaoh at the time did not want to give up his slaves, so with the help of Moses leading his people, God inflicted 10 plagues upon the Egyptians in an attempt to have them concede and let the Jews go. These 10 plagues included water turning to blood, frogs, lice, flies, livestock pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and the killing of the firstborn male children. Pharaoh ended up letting the Jews leave Egypt after the Angel of Death murdered every Egyptian male first born child, wanting these plagues to stop. The Jews then departed immediately, without time for their bread to rise, taking what is called “matzah”, or bread that hasn’t risen (no leaven). Unfortunately, the Egyptians changed their minds as the Israelites began their departure, and began to chase them in an attempt to get them back. This was a bit tricky for the Israelites, since they still had to cross the Red Sea, but God gave Moses the power to part the Red Sea. The Jews were able to cross the Red Sea as a result of this, but the Red Sea was closed up again after the Egyptians chased them Jews through the Sea, drowning the Egyptians in the process. Now the Israelites were able to travel to Israel safely.
During this holiday, many traditions occur. On the first two nights of Passover, there are customary seders, where the Passover story is told. A seder is composed of a large dinner as well as a reading of the Haggadah, a Passover prayer book, which includes various prayers and telling of the Exodus. Some of the most important parts of the seder include the acknowledgement of the 10 plagues, each symbolized by a food on the seder plate. Another important part of the seder is placing an extra glass of wine to the Prophet Elijah, whose spirit comes to homes on Passover. Towards the end of the seder, wine is poured into Elijah’s cup and the door is opened to welcome him into the home as the participants recite verses from the Book of Psalms. One of the most enjoyable parts of the seder, particularly for children, is finding the Afikomen. In the beginning of the seder, three pieces of Matzah are stacked up, and the middle piece is broken up, wrapping the larger piece in a cloth, designating it the Afikomen. During the seder, one adult will go hide the Afikomen and then the kids will be sent off to go find it. Whoever finds the Afikomen typically receives a small prize. Additionally, remembering the bread that did not rise, Jews participating in this holiday will not eat leavened products (no pasta and no bread). Instead, they will eat matzah as the Israelites did thousands of years ago. Finally, the seder recognizes not only the persecution the Jews faced and continue to face, but the persecution various other races and religions faced and continue to endure. This includes pouring a bit of wine out of their cups to symbolize the 10 plagues the Egyptians had to endure. The Jews pray for the coming of the Messiah and peace everywhere, hoping that one day discrimination and persecution will no longer exist.