How the Jewish Population Keeps
Written by: Jordan Bowles
Edited by: My Identity Mag Team
Tradition is extremely important when it comes to the establishment of a culture. It gives us insight into why certain practices and rituals are followed by certain groups of people, and the historical significance behind those practices and rituals as well. In this lovely month of April, I will be shedding light on an important Jewish holiday: The Passover. The Jewish community has a long history of how its people have undergone periods of horrendous turmoil and enslavement, and yet the preservation of their history reflects the deep strength that these individuals have. The Passover is an annual Jewish holiday that lasts for eight days (i.e. this year it will take place from April 19-April 27), and it tells a story of a remarkable and extremely important time in Jewish history.
The story of the Passover is rooted in a biblically-historical context. The Israelites were a nation of people that were enslaved by the Egyptians and they were forced to work under horrible and oppressive conditions of the ruling Pharaoh of that time period (which was around 1313 BCE). According to Jewish history, the biblical figure Moses was selected by God to help the Israelites be released from under the Pharaoh's rule. This was evident by a series of 10 plagues that were cursed upon the Egyptians by God, as punishment for Pharaoh refusing to free the Israelite slaves in spite of clear warnings from Moses. The last of the plagues is the foundational basis for where this holiday got its name from. The Torah states that the final plague caused the firstborn of each human and creature to die, but in order for the plague to be avoided, specific instructions had to be followed. Moses told the Israelites that God said a lamb without any “blemishes” or problems had to be sacrificed and that the blood of the lamb had to be painted on the top and sides of the door-posts of their home. If these instructions were followed, the plague would “pass-over” that particular family’s house the night that the plague went into effect, and their firstborn would be spared. As the story states, Pharaoh did not heed these warnings, and his firstborn son was killed by the plague, which was the catalyst that ultimately caused the Israelites to be freed from years of slavery.
In the Hebrew language, the name of the holiday derives from the word “Pesach,” which literally means “pass-over” (obviously in reference to the historical phenomenon that is an integral part of Jewish history. The Jewish culture commemorates this holiday week in a division of two parts. The first two days of the week and the last two are recognized as full holidays where the participants do not engage in work-related activities, cellular, and other electronic devices are not used, and time is primarily spent with family members while lighting candles and individuals recite a kiddush; a kiddush is defined as a blessing recited over a cup of wine expressing the sanctity of the Sabbath or of a festival.During the mid-days of the week, which are referred to as Chol Hamoed, participants are allowed to work. It is important to note, that the Jewish culture honors the night that the Israelites fled Egypt by not eating “ any food or drink that contains even a trace of wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt or their derivatives, and which wasn't guarded from leavening or fermentation. This includes bread, cake, cookies, cereal, pasta, and most alcoholic beverages; these are referred to as chametz or unleavened grain (i.e. pita bread). This tradition is specifically followed from midday before the Passover until the conclusion of the Passover in order to commemorate the very type of food that the Israelites ate the night they fled to their freedom.
One of the most important aspects of the Passover is the celebration of the Seder, which takes place on the first two nights of the holiday week. This particular time period of this holiday includes a retelling of the historically phenomenal story that is the cornerstone of the holiday, which is referred to as the Haggadah. The Seder celebration also mandates the consumption of bitter herbs in order to remind participants of the harsh slave conditions that their ancestors had the strength to survive through, and also drinking four cups, specifically of wine or grape juice, to celebrate the freedom that their ancestors finally obtained.
The Passover is one testament of the incredible history of the Jewish culture, and an ultimate reflection of how these individuals are able to withstand the horrid effects of oppression while simultaneously building a history and a legacy that future generations can continue to be proud of. This holiday is a wonderful representation of unification within a culture, and we wish for those who celebrate this holiday to have a blessed one with much more wonderful and deserved celebrations to come.
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