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Matzo, mmm good! Not!

 
Seeing as my post on Chanukah proved to be so popular I thought it would only be right to try my hand at the story of Passover.

If you don’t know about Passover and went to a Jewish home during the first night of the holiday and rudely arrived really late missing the reading of the haggadah (the story of Exodus as told in the Torah) you may think that Passover is simply short for ‘pass-it-over’ as in: “Hey you, the one closest to the brisket do me a favour and pass it over

Chances are you will arrive before the reading of the Haggadah in which case you may think Passover is short for ‘pass-this-over’ because after the first two hours of being read to, (usually in Hebrew) you may find yourself thinking: “Can’t we just pass-this-over and get to the food already?

Passover commemorates the story of the Exodus when the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt.  Passover begins on the 15th day of the month of Nisan, no silly, not the car, the first month of the ecclesiastical year and the seventh month of the civil year, on the Hebrew calendar.  More simply put, the first month of the festival year.  This holiday, the most celebrated among the Jews lasts for seven days.

The telling of this story is the responsibility of the Jews to pass onto their ‘sons’ “And thou shalt tell thy son in that day, saying: It is because of that which the LORD did for me when I came forth out of Egypt.” Exodus.13.8

The first two and the last two nights are special meals kicked off by the reading of the Haggadah. The meal ceremony starts at sundown and if you are lucky you start to eat around 9pm, during the reading of the haggadah you get to consume four glasses of wine, a crumb of bread, and a few measly bitter herbs that we dunk in salt water to remember the plight of the Jews.  This dunking is so nice, we do it twice!  Okay we do it twice to reinforce the tears shed.  But you also get to do fun stuff during the ceremony like:

 Dipping your finger in the wine 10 times and letting one drop fall to the plate for each of the 10 plagues.  One may think this is alcohol abuse but if you have ever had Manashevitz, (a kosher wine) then you might just agree that it is better on the plate then in your mouth.  

And then there is the fun game of ‘hide the Matzo’.  I have to admit I never knew the significance of the hiding of the matzo.  There are two ways to go about hiding the matzo, in some families the head of the table hides the matzo and the kids look for it at a particular point during the ceremony.  When found the kids get a little cash.  Some do the opposite the kids hide the matzo and get a little cash when the head of the table finds it.  Still makes no sense!  So, just for you my faithful readers I put in the leg work and asked Rabbi Google.  I didn’t like the first response, or the second or even the third.  The more I searched the more pissed I became.  The hiding of the matzo is a scam!  It has no religious significance, it tells no tale, and it represents nothing!  It exists because the evening is so long the powers that be decided to create this little task for the sole purpose of keeping the children awake and attentive during the ceremony!

Other than that you sit breathing in the aroma of wonderful food that sits in the other room waiting, waiting to be eaten as you slowly starve to death.  I think this is done purposely in order to truly understand what it is like to wander through the dessert for 40 years.  

I’m not going to go into all the Passover details, as there is way too much that goes on during the holiday.  But there are some interesting things you may want to know about…or the salient points according to me:

  • God helped the Israelites escape Egypt by inflicting 10 plagues upon the Egyptians before the Pharaoh would release his slaves.  The last one being that the first born son of every Egyptian would be slaughtered.  It could have been avoided if Ramsey had just listened to Moses when he said; “Let my people go” or at least when Charlton Heston said it in the movies.  My other favorite Charlton Heston line is; “Get your hand off me you damned dirty ape!”  But that’s another movie.
  • Speaking of the movie ‘The 10 Commandments’ which theatrically tells the story of the exodus. I think they need to re-make the movie and Angelina Jolie should play the role of Nefertiti. 
  • The Israelites were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a spring lamb and, upon seeing this, the spirit of the Lord passed over these homes saving them from the 10 plagues, hence the name ‘Passover’.
  • When the Pharaoh finally gave his word, the Israelites left so fast they didn’t even have time to wait for the bread to rise.  This was so traumatic that to this day Jews around the world have to eat Matzo (unleavened bread, see picture above) for seven consecutive days every single year.  Oy!
  • I couldn’t figure out why it took forty years to find the holy land.  Certainly somebody could have stopped and asked for directions even if the men wouldn’t I’m sure a woman would have.   Later I learned that this was a clever plan by God. You see when they reached Mt. Sinai the Jews went a little crazy and started making false idols and made a little party of it, as a punishment God made sure that generation never got to see the Promised Land.
  •  Moses led the Jews through the dessert for 40 years, yet Moses himself was not allowed to enter the holy land.  He wasn’t even allowed to cross the Jordan River!  I thought this highly unfair.  After a lot of time and research I found out that there was a moment when my people were getting really thirsty during the crossing and Moses started to doubt God’s plan and asked God; “Why? Why are you doing this, why am I leading these people through all this only to starve to death?”  God told Moses to tap the rock and in tapping the rock water appeared, but God was pissed at Moses for doubting his word and so Moses was not allowed into the promised land, the lesson here is don’t piss off God.
  • During the Passover ceremony there are four questions that the youngest male at the table is supposed to ask: 1 Why is it that on all other nights we eat both Bread and Matzo, but on this night we eat only Matzo?  2 Why is it that on other nights we eat all kinds of herbs, but on this night we eat only bitter herbs? 3 Why is it that on all other nights we dip our herbs once, but on this night we dip them twice? 4 Why is it that on all other nights we eat either reclining or sitting, but on this night we eat reclining?

You may notice that I have answered all the four questions except for one, the last one.  Could it be that I don’t know the answer?  No people, I have the internet at my disposal I have all the answers.   I didn’t answer the final question because in all my Passover’s past I never got to eat reclining.  I never even thought about it, and now I am feeling a little pissed off so figure it out yourself!  In the meantime grab your favourite pillow, relax and enjoy your freedom. 

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