Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew, is a Jewish holiday celebrated this time of year celebrating freedom. Usually on the first two nights, which would have been Monday and Tuesday night, Jewish families gather for a Seder to retell the story of Passover, eat a ceremonial meal, and be together to celebrate the holiday.
The Seder is a wonderful tradition of celebration, prayer, special foods, and simply a joining together of people to “break bread”, which in this case is unleavened bread. Seders vary in format and form almost as much as families vary. As a child, our family Seder often was celebrated with other families, some of whom were not Jewish. They had all the traditional elements, but the focus was on short and sweet. At other relatives homes, however, the service was much longer, where every word in the Haggadah had to be read, in both Hebrew and English. Butts were often a bit sore after an evening at these cousins’ home. Even as a member of a UU congregation, we often have Seder and have compiled a Haggadah.
It is often said that the Christian Last Supper of Jesus was a Passover Seder.
The story of Passover is about celebrating and giving thanks for freedom from slavery. It is a story told at the Seder through words and symbolism that Jews believe must be retold every year at this time. The Jewish people were enslaved in Egypt, until the Egyptians were struck with ten plagues, the tenth being the killing of each Egyptian first born son. It is said that God passed over the homes of the Jewish slaves, thus the English name for the holiday. The Jews then left Egypt in haste, on their way to a new found freedom.
Thus, we celebrate freedom as well as the pain of slavery during the Seder. During the service, we are even reminded of the suffering of the Egyptian families as a price for Jewish freedom. As the Seder is celebrated, we give thanks for our freedom but are reminded that even to this day, people around the world are not free.
When Israel was in Egypt’s land
Let my people go
Oppressed so hard they could not stand
Let my people goGo down Moses
Way down in Egypt land
Tell old Pharaoh
“Let my people go”
Take a moment, at the season of this Jewish and Christian holiday to celebrate freedom and to pray in whatever form that takes to ask for the freedom of all people.
Let my people go!