Hand-made matzah, eaten during the Passover seder and throughout the week of the holiday. Courtesy/Rabbi Shlachter
By RABBI JACK SHLACHTER
Los Alamos Jewish Center
The eight-day holiday of Passover is the most widely celebrated holiday on the Jewish calendar.
This year, Passover begins Wednesday evening, April 5. Passover commemorates the release of the Jewish people from slavery thousands of years ago, though the historical accuracy of the Exodus is questionable. Nevertheless, Passover constitutes an annual opportunity for Jews to journey out of their inner mitzraim (narrowness) and free themselves from those things (food, sex, work, money, time, family, appearance, fear, etc., ) to which we have become enslaved. (Mitzraim is also the Hebrew word for “Egypt”).
The seder (literally “order”), is a home-based ritual held on the first two nights of Passover, modeled on the talk-feasts of ancient Greece. Jews who reside in Israel participate in a seder on only the first night of the Passover holiday. The seder utilizes a manual called a Haggadah to guide participants through the 15-step ceremony, and questions are asked throughout the evening to stimulate the interest of even the youngest members. There are literally thousands of published haggadot; our home collection includes facsimiles of many illuminated medieval manuscripts as well as themed versions. Among the latter are The Human Rights Haggadah, the San Diego Women’s Haggadah, the Haggadah for the Vegetarian Family, the (unofficial) Hogwarts Haggadah, the Emoji Haggadah (completely incomprehensible to me!!), and the Baseball Haggadah – A Festival of Freedom and Springtime in 15 Innings.
Following some preliminary passages, the “talk” of the seder focuses on a retelling of the story of the Exodus, the goal being to inculcate the importance of freedom in successive generations. The “feast” is a festive meal which begins with the eating of some symbolic foods including bitter herbs–to remind us of the bitterness of slavery–and matzah (unleavened bread) representing bread of affliction. From a practical point of view, our preparations for Passover involve ridding ourselves and our dwellings of chametz – leavened products. Many Jews eschew all chametz for the full eight-day duration of Passover. Spiritually, chametz is likened to ways in which we are stuck in a rut, overly rigid, or perhaps puffed up with pride. Passover is thus an opportunity to examine ourselves and make changes and improvements in how we live.
This year, the Los Alamos Jewish Center will hold a community seder on the second night of Passover, at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 6. Reservations and pre-payment for the meal are required by March 27; please go to https://bit.ly/
The traditional greeting during Passover is Chag Kasher V’sameach – may you have a kosher and joyous holiday.