What does Passover mean?
The name of this major Jewish holiday comes from the story of the holiday.
The Jewish people were slaves in ancient Egypt for many decades. G-d sent Moses to tell the king, Pharaoh, to liberate them. Pharaoh refused, and a series of 10 plagues hit the kingdom.
At the very last night, when the Jews were ready to leave and were celebrating already the first Seder, the 10th plague hit. All the firstborn of the Egyptians miraculously died, but no one among the Jews. Symbolically this was called Passover, as if G-d was hitting a house and "passing over" another house.
Just the name of the holiday expresses our thanks to Him: We could have been hit by the plague, too, but He passed over us.
What does Seder mean?
Seder in Hebrew means order, organization.
Since the dinners contain so many laws, meanings, texts, different types of food, blessings, songs and more, the sages organized it all in a book called Haggadah, where everything is found in the right order, Seder.
How important is this holiday?
This is the "birthday" of our nation.
Practically everything starts from it. All other holidays, events and achievements, were not possible if not for this holiday.
After the creation of the world, this series of miracles is considered the greatest and the most powerful in history until this very day.
The Exodus is mentioned in the Torah (the five books of Moses) over 50 times. Many of the Jewish practices are "commemorating the Exodus" and what could be greater than that: Almighty G-d says, " I am the Lord your G-d who brought you out of the land of Egypt," when introducing Himself.
So if you ask me, Passover is the most important Holiday (I know I'll probably say the same about the next holiday ... but that will be true then.)
How do you celebrate Passover?
By two steps:
1. Cleaning our homes and removing all the Chametz (any leavened food of any of the five grains, wheat, barley, oats, spelt or rye).
2. Eat Matzah (unleavened bread made out of one of the about five), mainly during the "the Seders" on the first two nights of Passover.
What's the significance of the Matzah?
This is another expression of the greatness of the miracles.
Naturally, logically, the Jewish people had no way of getting out of the powerful empire, Egypt. But when G-d decided that the time had come, not only Pharaoh and his army didn't stop them, but they rushed them out, and the Jews didn't even have time to prepare well. There was no time to wait for the dough to rise, but to bake it and leave.
The message is beautiful. When G-d wants, even the impossible is possible, not only in 10 years, but right now.
Is there anything else interesting in the Seder?
A lot. I'm not sure this paper is long enough to cover everything.
Just one thing maybe I'll explain, the Maror. Bitter herbs. We eat certain vegetables (depends on the community and its tradition) that are bitter. Imagine biting a raw horseradish for example ... the idea is not only to talk about the Exodus but also to experience somehow how bitter it was before, and how sweet it is after.
Do you have Seders in the Emerald Coast?
Of course. Chabad offers for the Jewish community of Destin a full Seder dinner. For more information visit chabademeraldcoast.org.
Shaya (Shayke) Tenenboim is the Rabbi at Chabad of the Emerald Coast in Destin. Passover 2019 begins the evening of April 19 and ends the evening of April 27.