Spring has arrived and that means along with the promise of warmer weather, peaking over the horizon Passover is arriving very soon. It happens every year around this time and has been going on now for about 3300 years.
For very observant Jews this time is especially important and “dogmatically ordered” (seder) in its rituals and protocols and for those less so inclined, it is a time to gather with family and friends around the table for a good meal with a range of understanding from barely noticeable the rest of the year to a reading of a pamphlet or booklet (The Haggadah) that has been laying in a dark drawer somewhere. All those gathered begin reliving in memory and conversation the events that sparked the whole celebration in the first place.
Foods normally not eaten together are laid out in a spread on a special plate and wine is drank in full measure and with great pleasure. A special place and cup at the table is set up for a mysterious visitor all hope will show up. His name is Eliyahu Ha Navi (Elijah the Prophet). It is also a time where leavened products are removed and only unleavened bread is consumed for eight days.
Why do we Jews of all stripes engage in this activity year after year after year? Highly religious Jews will say it is because HaShem commands we do so. Others point to its significance as a tool of remembrance of that indelible period in our history when after over two hundred years of slavery in Egypt we were led out of captivity by a charismatic leader named Moses to our original homeland back in Israel. Those less informed may see it simply as a unique storytelling time for children and the sharing of good times, good food and good memories with family and friends.
Whatever the reason individual Jews do it each year the one binding factor in all of it is for at least one time each season we Jews all over the world, regardless of our religious stance or our political differences come together as one people to remember who we are, where we came from with a desire and hope that by the end of it we were united with a single purpose — the coming of better times where freedom, safety, unity and love reign supreme in our hearts, in our homeland Israel and throughout the entire world.
That, above all else, is what Passover means to me.
“You shall rejoice on your festival — you, your son, your daughter, your employees, the Levite, the convert, the orphan, and the widow who are in your cities.” Devarim (Deuteronomy) 16:14