In Jewish neighborhoods and homes across the world tonight, the greeting, “Good Pesach” will be heard as Passover begins. Pesach is the Hebrew word for Passover. If you are not Jewish or don’t happen to be close to anyone who is, this may seem a rather foreign and obscure holiday. But if you are a Christian you might well know that this Passover dinner or seder that will be observed in Jewish homes tonight, was what Jesus and His disciples were celebrating at the Last Supper.
We think it is interesting to understand the traditions and customs that are different from our own. We found some very good info, easy to understand that explains the customs and some of the significance of this ancient Jewish holiday on the website happypassover.net. Here is what we found:
The Story Of The Four Sons
One of the most interesting Passover traditions is the story of the Four Sons, who were Wise, Wicked, Simple, and Young. These sons are symbolic of the four types of Jews and their attitude towards their religion. The Wise son refer to the Jews who are observant, the Wicked son represents the Jews who are not respectful to their heritage and religion and reject them altogether, the Simple son is the one who is indifferent to all the religious activities and do not even try to understand them while the Young one represents the Jews who are ignorant of their culture and traditions. This story is recited at the table as a part of the custom.
The most important part of the Passover celebration is the ceremony of Seder. ‘Seder’ means ‘order’ in Hebrew and thus, all its rituals are observed in a particular order on this day. Seders are observed on the first 2 nights of the 8-day holiday with lavish meals with the Seder plate consisting of the five symbolic elements, special foods, stories, and history of Passover, plates, silverware, songs and prayers. It is a Jewish custom to wear white while observing Seder. White is said to be the color of joy and happiness and is often worn at pilgrimages and weddings apart from the Passover.
Gold And Silver
Gold, silver and all other ornamental artifacts are to be kept on the Seder table to remember the times when the Egyptians used to gift the Israelis gold and silver.
The tradition stated that while drinking the third cup of wine, the doors of home should be open. It’s believed that during the feast Elijah, the Prophet comes and blesses the Seder. This is done even in modern times, as the Jews believe that the blessings are really powerful. Another custom is to leave the doors open for the poor who wander outside and would like to come in and join the family for bread and the feast.
Four Cups Of Wine
Four glasses of wine are poured during the Seder to symbolize the four main stages of Exodus that led Hebrew slaves to the promised land of freedom. These stages were:
“I will bring out”
“I will deliver”
“I will redeem”
“I will take”
The glasses of wine were imbibed at different stages of the Seder, the fourth one sealing the Seder festivities.
Passing The Matzah
Matzah is the traditional unleavened bread, and is an important part of the Seder feast. The Matzah is broken down into three parts, with the first part consumed and the third part put back in a white cloth. The second part is called Afikoman and is generally used to entertain the children and keep them awake through the Seder proceedings. Each person is required to have the Matzah and it is customary to pass down the bread from hand to hand to all those sitting at the table. The third part is consumed for dessert at a later stage after all the feasting.
The Four Questions
There is a custom during the Passover, which says – all those sitting at the Seder table must ask the four important questions. It is necessary for everyone present at the table to partake in this event and chant in unison. The four questions are as follows:
“On all other nights, we do not dip even once, but on this night, we dip twice. Why?”
“On all other nights we eat bread or matzah, but on this night we eat only matzah. Why?”
“On all other nights, we eat all kinds of herbs, but on this night we eat only Maror. Why?”
“On all other nights, we eat either sitting or reclining, but on this night, we eat reclining. Why?”
Haggadah And The Ten Plagues Of Egypt
The Haggadah is the Jewish text that narrates the story of the Exodus. It is a custom to read out and recount the horrors of the past and how the Jews were liberated by Moshe/Moses from the clutches of a tyrannical empire that bound the Jews in slavery. All those present at the table were asked to pay attention and at times, the story would be enacted for better effect. After the narration of the Haggadah, the ten plagues of Egypt would also be recited, spilling a drop of wine in a bowl for every plague explained. This would be done by the elders of the family. It is said that when the reciter recites the ten plagues, nobody looks into his or her eyes and tries to avert any sort of direct contact because of the impact of the plagues and the destruction it caused in the past. This would then be followed by some singing and prayers.
The Passover customs reflect the ethnic traditions of the Jews and make us believe how important the festival is to the Israelis. The people of Jerusalem and all the other Jews around the world adhere to the customs every year and pray for a better Passover the next year. The customs and beliefs act like foundations that knit the families closer to each other. Highly traditional, this is the one holiday that fills their eyes with a better hope for the future, thanking the ancestors who gave up their lives for the present.
Knowing, understanding and celebrating other’s traditions where we can, makes all our lives richer and more abundant to be sure. If you have a Jewish friend or acquaintance who you see today or tomorrow, surprise them with the greeting “:Good Pesach” (pay-suh). Honoring our Jewish friends can only bring more love and more joy to our lives.
P.S. In case you are interested, we have posted here the answers to those 4 important seder questions. Enjoy 🙂
1) “On all other nights, we do not dip even once, but on this night, we dip twice. Why?”
Slavery: The salt water into which we dip the karpas (potato, onion, or other vegetable) represents the tears we cried while in Egypt. Similarly, the charoset (fruit-nut paste) into which the bitter herbs are dipped reminds us of the cement we used to create the bricks in Egypt.
Freedom: Dipping food is considered a luxury; a sign of freedom — as opposed to the poor (and enslaved) who eat “dry” and un-dipped foods.
2) “On all other nights we eat bread or matzah, but on this night we eat only matzah. Why?”
Slavery: Matzah was the bread of slaves and poor, it was cheap to produce and easy to make.
Freedom: Matzah also commemorates the fact that the bread did not have enough time to rise when the Jews hastily left Egypt.
3) “On all other nights, we eat all kinds of herbs, but on this night we eat only Maror. Why?”
Slavery: The maror (bitter herbs) reminds us of the bitterness of slavery in Egypt.
4) “On all other nights, we eat either sitting or reclining, but on this night, we eat reclining. Why?”
Freedom: We commemorate our freedom by reclining on cushions like royalty.