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The festival of Passover originated about 3500 years ago, when God, via Moses, and Pharaoh had a dispute over the tribe of the Israelites.Jacob and his twelve sons settled in Egypt. His family grew into a nation (more like a large tribe). Eventually the nation or the Israelites became slaves. Moses, was an Israelite by birth but he was unaware of this fact. As a baby he had been abandoned, so that he would be protected from Pharaoh, who wanted to kill all the baby boys. Unfortunately for Pharaoh his daughter found Moses and raised him as her own in the Pharaoh’s palace.As he grew older Moses found out that he was an Israelite and ran away. He was disgraced at the way his people were being treated. Soon after God appeared to Moses, as a burning bush. The bush was on fire, yet it was not being engulfed. He commanded Moses, to tell Pharaoh, to let his people go or the Egyptians would suffer the consequences, but Pharaoh refused. God sent ten plagues to Egypt.The Ten Plagues:Rivers of BloodFrogsLiceInsectsCattle DiseasesBoilsHailLocustsDarknessThe last Plague (on the evening of the Exodus) was The Angel of Death. For this plague the Israelites killed a perfect, one-year-old, male lamb. This acted as a substitute for their child. They smeared their doorposts in this lamb’s blood to symbolise that a death had already occurred in that house. That night the Angel of Death killed the first born son of every Egyptian house, including the Pharaoh’s, but PASSED OVER the houses which had their lintels smeared with blood. This is where the festival Passover comes from.After this Plague Pharaoh, who was so distraught at his own sons death, allowed the Israelites to leave their slavery behind and go elsewhere. They began the Exodus that very next day and fled from Egypt, probably by passing through the Reed Sea, which was a large marshy area of ground, extremely close to the Red Sea. They entered the desert and lived there for forty years. (Forty years is not literal. It is taken to mean a long period of time and also a time of trial, for example Noah’s ark where the floods lasted forty days and forty nights). Towards the end of the Exodus Moses died and Joshua guided them into the Promised Land, Canaan. The people were then divided into twelve smaller tribes; each named after Jacobs’s twelve sons.Events:Pessach or Passover is the most important festival for Jews. It occurs annually, starting from the fifteenth day of the month of Nissan – March or April in the Gregorian calendar. It lasts seven to eight days and is a time for Jews to remember their freedom from slavery in Egypt.On the day before the Passover festival the Jewish house is thoroughly cleaned and all Leaven is removed. Leaven or Chametz is yeast, or any rising agents. No rising agents are used for the Passover week. The father of each Jewish family is set a specific job. He must search the whole house to check that there is no sign or trace of Leaven left in the house. He performs this task using a feather and a candle, which is the ancient equivalent of a torch and brush. Once this event is complete the table is covered with a white cloth and the candles placed on top.The Seder meal, which helps to retell a version of the Exodus story, is then laid upon the table To aid in the telling of the story a special Seder plate is prepared which contains six symbolic foods:Matzoth: three flat, unleavened, cakes of bread. Also known as “bread of affliction.”Haroset: a thick paste made using apple, cinnamon nuts and wine. It acts as a reminder of the mortar used by the Israelite slaves, while working in Egypt.Karpas: nearly always parsley. It is dipped in the saltwater before being eaten. It is meant to symbolise the tears that their ancestors produced when they lived the harsh life of Egyptian slaves. It also represents spring and growth of new plants. The parsley could symbolise that of the herbs that were mixed with the lamb’s blood and smeared on the doorposts. The salt water may also represent the water of the Red Sea.Maror: usually a type of horseradish with a bitter taste. This represents the bitter feelings of the Israelites.Hazeret: commonly known as lettuce; a vegetable which starts off tasting pleasant but eventually may leave an aftertaste in the mouth. This is just like the attitudes of God’s people to living in Egypt.Zeroa: the roasted lamb. The lamb itself is not actually eaten during the Seder meal. It acts as a powerful reminder of the ancient sacrifices in The Temple and the tenth plague The Angel of Death when a lamb was killed to save each Israelite family.Betzah: this is the roasted egg which, again, is not eaten at the Seder meal. It is a symbol of new life like that, which their ancestors were granted when they were freed from Egypt.The service of Seder begins when the father says the Kiddush prayer and passes the parsley dipped in salt water to each member of the family. He then breaks the matzoth into half and hides one of the pieces. After this the youngest child present asks these questions: (If the youngest child is not capable of speaking well enough the next oldest cild perform the event)1. On this night why is there only unleavened bread?2. Why are there only bitter herbs?3. Why do we dip our herbs?4. Why do we eat in a leaning position?After these questions the father reads a special book that is provided for each person at the table. It is normally written in Hebrew, with a translation into the everyday language of the Jewish family. Sometimes special children’s’ versions of the book are available, because children seem to play a very important role in the Seder meal. This book is called the Haghada. It helps the family follow the story more easily.So the father reads the Haghada (means story) which gives the answers to the child’s questions. A recurring phrase at the meal is: “Ha Kodosh baruh-hu. This means: “The Holy one, Blessed is He.”The egg is then dipped in the salt water to mark the Temple’s destruction as mourners eat eggs. Wine is then drunk, four glasses per person. This is because of the four ways in which God spoke to the Israelites:* I will bring you out* I will deliver you* I will redeem you (redeem means to get back, something you once owned)* I will take you to meFinally Hallel (praise) psalms are recited and a blessing said. Hands are washed and the main meal follows. After the meal the father recites Havdalah (separation).

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