Wednesday marked the close of this year’s Passover, which commemorates the time when the Jews were led out of slavery in Egypt.
Moses had been instructed to lead God's people out of Egypt and save them from the evil and ungodly Pharaoh. Because of Pharaoh's disbelief in the power of the One True God, Yahweh sent a series of 10 plagues upon the Egyptians: the Nile turned to blood and, at various times, the land was filled with frogs, gnats, flies, hail, locusts, and darkness.
In an awesome display of His ultimate authority, God sent one final devastating plague: the annihilation of the firstborn male of every household in Egypt.
As an act of mercy toward His people, God said that He would shield the Israelites from such unmerciful judgment if they would follow the instructions given to Moses and Aaron. The specific instructions are outlined in Exodus 12:1-11. In summary, the families in each household were each to select a lamb and then slaughter all the lambs at the same time (twilight) after a certain number of days. Then they were commanded to paint the sides and top of their doorways with the lambs’ blood. Once this was done and all the meat of the lambs was eaten in accordance with His instructions, God would spare the Israelites from death.
This is what the Lord said: "On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn — both men and animals — and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord — a lasting ordinance." (Exodus 12:12-14).
The highlight of a contemporary Jewish Passover is the Seder, and this year I was privileged to be able to attend a Seder celebration. There are six specific foods eaten to represent certain things. However, celebrants can be creative and use different foodstuffs to replace the traditional ones (e.g., vegetarians/vegans can use a raw beet instead of the shank, without losing its significance i.e., shank bone is a reminder of the Passover sacrifice; when you cut it, it bleeds). During the Seder, participants can discuss or act out the Israelites’ flight out of Egypt, or they can make it more personal by reflecting on their release from some sort of personal bondage.
It is important to have some younger folks at the table to pass on the Passover traditions. There are so many other traditions at the Seder, the hiding of the matzo by adults for the younger ones to find, the empty cups and empty seats at the Seder table for Elijah and Miriam, and so many more. There are many ways to be creative and have fun during Passover, while remembering and honoring what it symbolizes.
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