Lets take a break from the news and talk about a holiday!
Today marks the first full day of the Jewish Passover holiday marking the exodus of the Hebrews from their slavery in Egypt. In the Bible we read that Jews are commanded to tell the story as if it had happened to them personally and not as a historical event, in order to emphasize the importance of freedom.
The preparations include many things but most notably, the removal of any food product that contains leavened wheat, oat, barley, rye products.
In the absence of leaven, Jews will eat specially prepared unleavened bread, or matzah, on Passover. Matzah dates back to the Exodus, where the Jews, not having had time to wait for dough to rise before leaving Egypt, journeyed into the desert with unleavened bread.
Yesterday evening, Jewish families ate a special ceremonial meal known as the seder, which commemorates the Exodus from Egypt. This is what Jesus would have celebrated prior to His betrayal – what we call the Last Supper. So much of the celebratory meal points to our Savior and makes me ever more aware of how complete God loves us, freeing us from the bonds of sin.
Back to our description – the foods used in this meal relate to the story of the Exodus from Egypt and Jewish worship. A plate placed on the table contains several special foods: a roasted egg, symbolizing the special sacrifices which were brought in the Temple; a roasted shank bone, recalling the special Passover lamb offered and eaten in Temple times; a mixture of chopped apples, nuts, wine and cinnamon, symbolizing the mortar that the Hebrew slaves in Egypt used to make bricks; sprigs of parsley and lettuce, symbolizing spring; a bitter herb symbolizing the bitterness of slavery; and salt water, recalling the tears shed by the Hebrew slaves in Egypt. Three sheets of matzah – marking the division of the Jewish people into priests, Levites and the general population – are also placed on the table.
During the course of the seder, the Ten Plagues are recalled. When each of the Plagues is mentioned, each participant dips a finger into his/her cup of wine and removes a drop; even though the Jews were oppressed in Egypt, we are reminded that we must not rejoice over the Egyptians' suffering. Our cups of wine cannot thus be full.
One of the more popular customs for children concerns a special piece of matzah that is the last food eaten during the meal. The head of the household customarily hides the piece somewhere in the house, and the children then search for it. Once found, it is “ransomed,” since the seder meal cannot continue until the lost piece is found and eaten. This helps to keep the children focused on the seder meal and it's symbolism and ritual as it is a very long evening.
One last little tid bit of information – Jewish tradition maintains that the parting of the Red Sea and the destruction of the Egyptian army occurred on the seventh day of Passover, but even though Passover celebrates the Exodus from Egypt, Jews nevertheless do not rejoice over the death of the Egyptians in the sea.
God Bless you all during this holy week,
Middle East Corespondent