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April 11, 2006 > Passover


by Praveena Raman

"Why is this night different from any other night?" On the evening of April 12, Jews the world over will ask this question as family and friends gather for a Passover Seder. The "Haggadah" will be read to guide the assemblage through song, prayer and stories to celebrate the Jewish people's deliverance from slavery in ancient Egypt.

Jews celebrate the flight of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery in the 1200's B.C. According to the Book of Exodus, about 3000 years ago, Moses was asked by God to free the Israelites who were enslaved by the Egyptian Pharaoh, Ramses II. The Pharoah did not listen to Moses' plea and would not set the Israelites free.

Ten different plagues, blood (Dahm), frogs (Tz'fardaya), lice (Kinim), beasts (Arov), cattle disease (Dever), boils (Sh'chin), hail (Barad), locusts (Arbeh), Darkness (Choshech) and Plague of the First Born (Makat B'chorot), were unleashed on the people of Egypt to punish them. Before the tenth plague, the plague of the first born, was unleashed, the Israelites were asked to mark their doors with the blood of lamb. The angel of death passed over these houses and unleashed the plague only in the houses of the Egyptian people killing their first-born child. From this "passing over" the holiday derives its name Passover or Pesach which in Hebrew means "Passing over" or "protection."

Pharaoh finally set the Israelites free. The Israelites gathered whatever possessions they could carry with them and left so quickly that there was no time to even bake bread. They took raw dough with them and as they fled through the desert, baked bread under the hot sun into hard dry crackers called matzohs. Though the Jews were free, they were not yet liberated since the Pharaoh changed his mind and sent soldiers after them through the desert to the Red Sea. When the Jews reached the Red Sea they saw that their escape was blocked.

Then, a miracle occurred and the Red Sea parted to let the Israelites cross over to the other side. As soon as they had crossed, the waters came back together, trapping the soldiers on the other side and sweeping those in their path away, thus liberating the Jews completely. This liberation is celebrated during Passover.

History and stories about Passover are told during the Seder and passed from generation to generation. The Torah commands the Jews to teach their children about Passover. The Talmud (which is a set of books about Moses) suggests four different ways children might react to this "telling." The Wise child might ask, "What is the meaning of the laws and rules which Adonai, our God, has commanded us?;" the Wicked child might ask "What does this service mean to you?"; The Simple child might ask "What is this all about?;" and there might be a child Who does not know enough to ask a question. The answers, explaining the meaning of Passover, are to be modified according to the questions asked so that everybody can understand the reason for this celebration.

Temple Beth Torah at 42000 Paseo Padre Parkway in Fremont is having their Annual Community Passover Seder on Thursday April 13th starting at 6 p.m. (doors will open at 5 p.m. The price for the Seder is Adults $20 and $10 for children ages 3-12. 2 and under are free. There will be a complete Seder including matzo ball soup, chicken, vegetable, potato kugel, eggs, matzos, charoset and dessert. Food will be prepared in kosher style. Seating is limited to the first 200 people. For more information call (510) 656-7141.

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