“Hag Chagsameach”! This is the greeting Jews offer one another during Passover which occurs this year from April 18-24 during the Hebrew month of Nisan. The words mean Happy Holiday and so it is, a most important and celebratory event.
The Jewish Congregation of Marco Island welcomed the students of Winterberry Christian Academy and home schooled students on the island to a presentation of a Seder on Thursday, April 8. This was a second visit for the students who came in the fall to learn about the holy days of Hanukkah.
Harvey and Maxine Brenner, Bernie and Lulu Seidman and Bert Thompson prepared the room for their visitors and were present to greet the students. Bernie Seidman, President of the Jewish Congregation, introduced Rabbi Edward Maline, DD, who described Passover as a “celebration of freedom,” a remembrance of the journey out of slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land.
The Seder begins the celebration on the first night and, generally, the second night of Passover. Rabbi explained that, in Hebrew, seder means order, the way in which things happen. Every part of the Seder has a symbolic meaning and begins with candle lighting, a welcome to the presence of God…”kindling the Festival Lights. For the Children of Israel there will be light and joy on this day.”
The Kiddush prayer is offered up to God, Ruler of the Universe, who has given Israel its sacred task and holy days. Rabbi Maline has prepared a Passover Haggadah, a book which describes a contemporary Seder faithful to the traditions and symbolismsof the past and including the modern story of oppression and suffering of the Jewish people. Passover celebrations today recall the isolation and degradation of the European Ghetto, the horrors of the Holocaust and now the present threat against Israel from the Middle East.
The Passover Plate holds several traditional foods, Z’ROA, a roasted shank bone symbolizing the Paschal Lamb that was roasted and eaten on the Seder night in Temple days. BETZAH, an egg, hard boiled and roasted, symbolic of the festive Seder meal in Ancient Jerusalem. MAROR, bitter herbs, such as parsley dipped in salt water, symbolic of slavery. CHAROSET, chopped apple and nuts mixed with cinnamon and wine to symbolize the mortar and clay which the enslaved Hebrews used to construct Egyptian temples. KARPAS, a vegetable to be dipped in salt water and eaten at ease. MATZAH, unleavened bread to recall the Hebrews hasty flight from Egypt and slavery.
Four cups of wine are consumed in dedication to the events of Hebraic history. The first cup is dedicated to the Exodus when the Hebrews revolted against the dictatorship of Pharoah and demanded their release with the leadership of Moses. Parsley is dipped in salt water to remind Jews of the tears of their forefathers during their long suffering in Egypt.
The middle piece of Matzah is broken and half is saved as the Afikomon, the dessert, so that the Seder begins and ends with the taste of Matzah, “the bread of affliction.”
An adult at the table asks the question? “Why is this night different from all othernights?” The youngest child asks four questions.
Why on this night only matzah?
Why on this night must we taste bitter greens?
Why on this night must we dip greens twice, the parsley in salt water and the bitter herb in charoset?
Why on this night are we all at ease?
The Passover story is told of the Hebrew enslavement in Egypt and how God, the Holy One, brought them out of slavery. The second cup of wine is dedicated to the re-creation of the State of Israel.
Dinner is served and the third cup of wine is dedicated to America which has made a safe home for Jews and has pledged its protection to Israel. The fourth cup of wine, once dedicated to the liberation of Soviet Jewry is now dedicated to all peoples everywhere particularly in the Middle East who are yearning for freedom.
Josiah Hurtley, an 11 year old home schooled student asked and answered several questions in response to Rabbi Maline’s commentary. He impressed the gathering with his interest and intelligent answers. Josiah’s grandmother, Sue Keller, a photojournalist for the Marco Island Sun Times, was present at the event and justly proud of her grandson!
A fifth cup of wine is dedicated to Elijah, the Prophet, associated with the Messianic Promise to the Jewish people. A child is sent to open the door to welcome Elijah in and with him the fulfillment of the Promise, that justice will prevail and “all mankind will celebrate freedom.”
Refreshments were served to the students and they had an opportunity to view the beautifully set Passover table and the Seder Plate.