by: Nachman Klieman
Passover is a Jewish Holiday celebrating the moment the People of Israel gained freedom from their enslavement in ancient Egypt. Although having taken place thousands of years ago, the emancipation of an entire people has been commemorated through the annual retelling of that story ever since. On the first night of the Passover holiday families unite for the recital of that story during a festive family dinner known as the Seder. The reliving of that escape to freedom has ensured the Jewish people’s appreciation and understanding of what it means to be free men and women.
After suffering the pangs distress of over 200 years of slavery to the Egyptian people and their leader the Pharaoh, G-d sent Moses and his brother Aaron, the leaders of the Jewish people then, to ask Pharaoh to let the Jewish people go free. Nine times Moses approached the Pharaoh in a plea to let the Jews go free and when refused each time a horrible and deadly plague was unleashed by G-d on the Egyptian people and their leaders. The tenth and final plague of death made Pharaoh release the Jewish people from their bondage. No Jews died that night of the final plague as the doorposts to their homes were marked to enable the angel of death to pass over their homes without the deadly affect.
The Egyptian Pharaoh and his people evicted the Jews who left Egypt in such a hurry that the bread they prepared for their journey couldn’t rise. remaining as flat sheets of dough. Over a million people left Egypt that night on their way to a land their G-d had promised them. Realizing that they no longer had any slaves to do their work and to build their cities, Pharaoh and the remainder of his army chased the Jewish people into the desert in order to return them to slavery. In a miraculous event, G-d enabled his people to cross the Red Sea on dry land having split the sea into a walled and safe passage. When the Egyptians foolishly chased after the Jews into the split sea, G-d returned the sea to its normal state once the Jews had safely arrived on the other shore. All of Pharaohs soldiers and charioteers drowned in that event.
The entire story of the Jewish enslavement in Egypt, Moses bid to set them free, the ten plagues, the moment of freedom and departure from Egypt as well as Pharaohs mistaken attempt to re-enslave the Jewish people and the destruction of the Egyptian army at the Red Sea crossing is retold during the festive Seder dinner for the benefit of all those present, young and older.
Among the customs of the Passover Seder meal is the recital of the departure from Egypt (the Haggadah-the Telling) pouring of four glasses of wine (to signify dining as free men), the eating of unleavened bread Matzah (a reminder of the quick departure from Egypt), the tasting of bitter herbs (an attempt to describe the harshness and bitterness of enslavement), and the serving of a roasted meat meal ( a reminder of the sacrificial lamb) as a message of thanks to G-d for all of the miracles he performed in the story of the Jewish peoples escape to freedom.