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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Festivals of the World: Passover - Jewish Festival of Freedom

Festivals of the World:  Jewish Passover | Foundation for Pluralism | Americans Together
Link: http://foundationforpluralism.blogspot.com/2015/03/festivals-of-world-passover-jewish.html
Passover is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the story of the Exodus, when Jews were freed from slavery in Egypt.  It is celebrated for seven or eight days and one of the most widely observed Jewish holidays.

Tonite marks the Passover over with a Seder, a ritualized dinner to commence the Passover. A few years ago, my daughter and I were guests at Temple Shalom for the Passover Seder, it was a great experience reading the scriptures and following the tradition.

The day is not far when all of us on the planet, will learn about each other, and see the beauty and essence in each tradition and possibly celebrate and commemorate. Knowledge leads to understanding, and understanding to acceptance and appreciation of the otherness of others, thus creating a cohesive enjoyable world for us.  Please do share this with your non-Jewish friends.

"Festivals of the World" is an educational series by Mike Ghouse that has been active since 1993. When we live in the same communities as neighbors, we might as well learn about each other. The best way to build cohesive societies is for its members, is to participate in festivities as well as commemorations of each other, or, at least understand each other's' joys and sorrows. Please note the simplicity in writing is designed for people of other faiths to learn and to know, so we can function cohesively.

I am pleased to introduce Rabbi David Hartley Mark, who will be helping me share information about Jewish Holidays. The information follows the article.  You will find information about most holidays by searching the name of the holiday in the search box at http://foundationforpluralism.blogspot.com/ it will also be shared at various yahoogroups including Foundationforpluralism@yahoogroups.com

Thank you.

Mike Ghouse
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Passover, Festival of Freedom

By Rabbi David Hartley Mark, M.A., M.Phil.

Jewish Educator and English Instructor

          Of all Jewish holidays, Passover’s theme is the most universal: the message of freedom. ‘Way back in 1400 BCE, during the reign of the mighty Pharaoh Ramses II (or perhaps his son, Merneptah), an invisible God reached out of the heavens and into human history. “Let My people go!” ordered Moses, His prophet, and, shocked and demoralized by ten plagues which afflicted his country, his cattle, and his people, Ramses had no choice but to comply, according to the biblical Book of Exodus.

          Today, this message continues to resonate in oppressed nations worldwide, where uncounted millions of human beings yearn for the very freedoms which we Americans take for granted: freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

What do Jews do during Passover, Pesach in Hebrew? For the seven-day (eight, outside of Israel) period of the holiday, observant Jews refrain from eating leavened foods, and instead eat foods consisting of  matzah, the grain of which (usually wheat) has been mixed with water and baked before eighteen minutes have passed, in remembrance of the speed in which the Israelites departed Egypt during the Exodus.

In synagogue or temple, Passover features temple prayers and Torah (The Holy Scroll of the Pentateuch, or Five Books of Moses) Readings relating to the Exodus and to the Springtime Harvest, as well as the Prayer for Dew, reminding us of the holiday’s agricultural roots as the start of the Harvest Season in Israel.

The holiday is largely home-based, with the seder (Hebrew, “order”) meal, the special feast, at its center. This year, Jews will enjoy their seder-meals on Friday and Saturday evenings, April 3 and 4.

The Seder is a repast full of symbolism: while singing and chanting prayers and songs from a special book called the Hagadah, (Hebrew, “the Telling”), we eat white horseradish, the “bitter herb” which reminds us of the bitterness of slavery, and dip green parsley, the symbol of springtime, into salt water, to recall the bitter tears of slavery, while often reclining at the table in the attitude of free people. Indeed, the seder represents the earliest audio-visual learning experience known to humankind, and everything we do there is meant to provoke questions and discussion, often far into the night—although we encourage our youngest children to become involved, too, since we center our Judaism on religious education and positive experiences. Jews must remain Jewish; it is our fate and our good fortune.

It is a dinner full of ritual, in which the participants partake of four cups of wine, to represent the four promises God made to our ancestors: “I took you out of Egypt; I saved you from Pharaoh’s wrath; I liberated you from slavery; I took you to be My special people.” Because of this, the number four resounds throughout the Seder-Meal: the Hagadah-book tells the youngest participant to ask Four Questions relating to different foods, different aspects of freedom. It describes Four Children: the Wise, the Wicked, the Simple, and the One Who Does Not Know How to Ask, referring either to actual types of children who must be educated in ways suitable for their learning abilities or personalities. It might also symbolize all human beings, who must pass through different stages of development, before learning to understand and accept human differences—a crucial stage in reaching World Peace among the Races, Religions, and Ethnicities. That is the Universal Message of Passover—liberation from hatred and prejudice, and we pray for the swift arrival of that day.

Passover marks the beginning of the spring harvest season. Accordingly, the temple service during the holiday includes a prayer for dew, representing both God’s visible grace upon the earth, and the gentle rain which sustains the standing barley. May Passover 2015 bring blessings of peace and freedom for all!

Rabbi David Hartley Mark has an extensive educational and teaching background.  He has earned several academic degrees including a Master’s in Philosophy, advanced studies in Judaism and Rabbinical studies.  

Festivals of the World:  Jewish Passover | Foundation for Pluralism | Americans Together
Link: http://foundationforpluralism.blogspot.com/2015/03/festivals-of-world-passover-jewish.html

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