Passover 2019 begins at sundown, April 19 and continues through April 27.
Passover or Pesach, means “pass over” in Hebrew. It is the retelling of the Biblical story of the Israelites being freed from slavery in ancient Egypt. The celebration of Passover is found in the reading of Exodus. The story is that the Egyptian pharaoh was worried that the Jews were becoming a majority, so he made them slaves and declared that all of their male babies should be put to death. Infant Moses was saved by his mother putting him in a basket and letting it float down the Nile, hoping that an Egyptian would find and adopt him.
He is found by the daughter of the pharaoh and raised in the palace. Later, as an adult, Moses kills an Egyptian slave master and has to flee to the desert. That is where Moses is confronted by the burning bush and God is revealed to him.
God tells him to go back to pharaoh and ask that the Jews be freed. The more that the pharaoh refuses, the more plagues befall the Egyptians. The 10th and final plague is that first born Egyptian males will be killed if the Jews are not set free. The pharaoh relents and in their hasty flight from Egypt, the bread prepared for their journey doesn’t have a chance to rise, and unleavened bread — matzoh — became one of the symbols of Passover, along with wine and questions asked about the story of the Exodus.
The Haggadah is the text that tells the order of the Passover Seder celebration. Seder translates from Hebrew to “order.” And there is a certain order to the Seder meal. The Haggadah goes from the beginning of the meal where the wine is blessed to the final closing, where we, in our family, sing God Bless America.
The Haggadah says that in every generation, each individual should feel as though he or she had gone out of Egypt. We are asked to liberate ourselves from our personal Egypt. Passover is like a bridge between our past and the present. We connect the story of Passover and the struggle for freedom to the issues of today: refugee crises; global hunger and violence; genocide; poverty; persecution of minorities; the increase in open antisemitism.
The holiday is highlighted by family, friends and strangers coming together as an extended family. The Passover story is about risks and rewards. It is a personal journey. Passover reaffirms our historical sense of community and continuity.
Passover coincides with the beginning of spring. A time for renewal, rethinking and new beginnings. The Passover story connects families all over the world. The connection makes the Passover story as relevant today as it ever was. Passover makes us recall the good and the bad. We were slaves, now we are free. Life is never stagnant.
L’Chaim ... to life.
Leona Uchitelle writes a religion column for the Venice Gondolier Sun and a food column for the Jewish Congregation of Venice’s newsletter, ”L’Chaim.”
PASSOVER SERVICES IN VENICE AREAJewish Congregation of Venice will hold a Passover seder Friday, April 19 at the Plantation Golf & Country Club. Reservations closed April 16. For information on holiday services, call 941-484-2022 or visit: jewishcongregationof venice.com.
The Chabad of Venice and North Port will hold its Passover Seder in the Chabad Education Center Friday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. The cover charge is $65 for adults and $20 for children if space remains. Call 941-493-2770 for reservations. To learn about additional services during Passover, visit: chabadofvenice.com.