Passover between tradition and modernity

Easter, a major feast for Christians, commemorates the Last Supper, the Passion and the Resurrection of Christ. According to the gospels, these events took place during the Passover celebrations, with Jesus representing the paschal lamb redeeming the sins of the world through his sacrifice.

The Jewish holiday of Passover, from the Hebrew word meaning “to pass over, to spare” is a reference to the last of the ten plagues of Egypt punishing Pharaoh for his refusal to free the Jewish people. According to the book of Exodus, God decided to kill all the first born of Egypt.

In order that their children be spared, the Jews were ordered to sacrifice a lamb free from any blemish and to smear its blood on the lintels of their doors. Recognizing the sign, God would "pass over" the gate and spare his newborns.

The Christian festival of Easter thus has its roots in the Jewish Passover commemorating the exodus from Egypt of the Hebrew people and the beginning of the agricultural year. Also called Unleavened Bread Festival, Barley Sprouting Festival or The Time of Our Freedom, it is celebrated this year from Friday April 15 to Saturday April 23, and is one of the three Jewish pilgrimage festivals prescribed by the Hebrew Bible.

For the Jews it is a sacred moment during which the notions of freedom, redemption and gratitude are highlighted, it requires all material and spiritual preparation, and the real heart of this celebration consists in preparing the ritual meal, the seder, which takes place on the first night of Passover.

What is the Seder?

To find out what constitutes a Seder, the site en.chabad.org gives a complete update on this meal including reading of texts, consumption of wines, stories, consumption of special foods and songs. The procedure, in fifteen steps, is presented in a book called Haggadah and the food is placed on the Seder plate, the keara.

The ceremony begins with the recitation of kiddush proclaiming the sanctity of the feast. It is performed by holding a glass of wine, the first of four glasses consumed tilted to the side during the Seder. It continues with Our'hats, the ritual washing of the hands before the Karpas, the soaking of food in salt water which is part of the acts intended to arouse the curiosity of children.

Then, the Ya'hats where the matzah is broken recalls the opening of the Sea of ​​Reeds by God before the stage of Maggid, where the reading of the Haggadah recounting the Exodus from Egypt takes place, where the poor are invited to join the Seder and where a second glass of wine is poured.

One then proceeds to the Rochtsa, second washing of the hands and to the Motsi Matsa where, following the usual blessing before the bread, two pieces of the matzah are eaten while leaning on their elbows. Then follow the stages of Mahor, where at least thirty grams of bitter herbs are eaten, and the Korekh, where the sandwich of Hille, the great sage of the Talmud, is eaten, consisting of bitter herbs between two pieces of matzah.

This is where Shulhane Orekh, the feast, comes in, starting with a hard-boiled egg dipped in salt water.

Traditionally associated with mourning, the egg is a reminder that the meal lacks the sacrificial lamb. Tsafoun, the exit from the hiding place follows the meal and the half matzvah, which had been "hidden" and put aside, is taken out and eaten symbolizing the paschal lamb that the ancestors ate at the end of the Passover seder.

The blessings after the meal, Berakh, are the occasion to fill a third glass of wine, to recite Thanksgiving and to drink this glass leaning on its elbow.

Elijah's cup and glasses are filled, the door is opened and a passage inviting the prophet Elijah, announcer of the coming of Moshiach, the Messiah, is recited. The songs of praise, Hallel, are then the occasion to sing the praises of the Almighty before the blessing on the wine and the consumption of the fourth glass of wine.

The ritual then ends with Nirtsa, the acceptance, during which the phrase "L'Shana Haba'ah B'Yerushalayim" is pronounced, which means in French, "next year in Jerusalem".

The vegetarian Seder wins its place at the table!

A festive occasion, the Passover banquet is traditionally an opportunity to taste, alongside matzah dumpling soup, potato kugel or coconut macaroons, beef brisket, chicken, chopped liver or stuffed fish.

However, as reported Religions News Service, these meat dishes are no longer popular with many Jews who adapt their meals, with the agreement of the rabbinical authorities.

Thus, over the past twenty years, the symbolic dish of the Seder has evolved in some homes and the hock bone has been replaced by beets and the hard-boiled egg by mushrooms!

Eric Coursodon

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