Jewish Religions

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Jewish Religions Passover (Pesah), which celebrates the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, begins on the fifteenth of the month of Nisan and continues for seven days, through Nisan 21, though many Diaspora communities celebrate it for eight days (Strassfeld, Michael, 1985). The name Passover is taken from the Exodus story: During the tenth and ultimate plague inflicted on Pharaoh to break his will, God passed over the Israelites and struck down only the Egyptian firstborn. That night Pharaoh finally agreed to let the Israelites go; and ever since then, we gather together on that night to commemorate that time, and to contemplate the meaning of being freed by the "mighty hand and outstretched arm" of the Holy One. (Strassfeld, Michael, 1985). The central meaning of Passover is liberation, and hence it is also called "zeman heiruteinu" — the season of our liberation. Another name for Passover is "hag ha-aviv" — the holiday of spring. The Jewish calendar is set so that certain holidays always occur in a particular season of the year (unlike, for instance, the Moslem calendar) (Drucker, Malka, 1981). Thus, the holiday of liberation is also the holiday of spring, not simply by coincidence but by design. Following the bleakness of winter when everything is covered with the shrouds of snow, spring marks the rebirth of the earth with the bursting forth of green life. Similarly, a people enshackled in oppressive slavery, doomed to a slow process of degradation or even extinction, bursts forth out of Egypt into a new life's journey leading to a land flowing with milk and honey (Bowker, John, 1997). The watchwords of both spring and Pesah are "rebirth" and "hope." Thus, the spirit of renewed optimism aroused by the sights and smells of spring are reinforced in a Jewish context by Passover with its trumpeting of the possibilities of liberation. Passover reminds us annually that no matter how terrible our situation, we must not lose hope (Strassfeld, Michael, 1985). Passover holds out the possibility of renewal, proclaiming that such change is as intrinsic to human nature as are blossoming trees to the natural world (Bowker, John, 1997). Another name for Pesah is "hag ha-matzot" — the holiday of the unleavened bread. The matzah evokes images of that night when the Israelites ate the sacrificial lamb in fearful and eager anticipation of the future. Around them arose the wails of Egyptians mourning the deaths of their firstborn (Drucker, Malka, 1994).
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