Explain the history, Practices, symbolism and religious significance of pesach. In your concluding paragraph(s) suggest how might the observance of pesach might reinforce Jewish identity. Passover or as the Hebrews would say Pesach is one of the most significant festivals in the Jewish faith. The name itself has many different symbolic meanings of Passover ‘God ‘passed over’ the houses of the israelites’. To understand the Passover is to understand its historical relevance in the Jewish community.
Around 300 years ago the ancient Jews were enslaved to ‘Pharaoh in Egypt and God brought them out of bondage with an outstretched arm and a mighty hand’. There is a strong symbolism of freedom and deliverance in the lesson of the Passover. The festival of Passover lasts for around a week and is normally celebrated around the time of March or April every year the ‘heart of pesach is the seder, a special meal eaten on the first evening to celebrate freedom’. During this night all the family will gather and the story of there liberation will be told.
The story of the Exodus begins in ancient Egypt in which the Jews where under the slavery of the Pharaoh and Moses or Moshe killed a slave driver after witnessing him beating a slave, he then fled and began a new life. However during the story it is told that ‘God spoke to him out of a burning bush whose flames did not go out. God told him to meet the Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Let my people go’ This then led on to Moshe pleading for the freedom of his people and ‘after being smitten by ten plagues’ they were allowed there freedom.
However, the story concludes with the Pharaoh changing his mind and going after them it is then when Moshe famously parted the red sea, the Egyptians being taken under by the sea and the Jews passing safely onto dry land ‘saved at the sea, the Israelites sand a song to celebrate their salvation’. The seder night is a meal normally held on the first night of the Passover but some familes celebrate it on the second aswell, and is the night that is most anticipated by Jewish familes.
Over this night the story of Exodus is told and the food that is displayed and eaten has many symbolic meanings. Food is a very important aspect of the seder night and meal, as Jews are forbidden from eating leavened bread at all during Pesach, therefore anything leaven is called chametz ‘according to the book Bnie Yissachar, destroying chametz particularly represents the destruction of idolatry and false religions’. During the countdown to Pesach ‘familes clean their homes from top to bottom o make it free of hamtez’ . During the seder there table is set with foods as instructed by the ‘Haggadah’ which means the ‘telling’. The word seder in itself ‘means order’ as there is strict order that must be followed on the night of seder, for example it will always begin with a Kiddush which is a blessing which is usually sang, which could be seen as symbolism of the songs that where sung by the Israelites when they were delivered from the Egyptians by God.
An example of one of the proceedings of the seder night that reflects on the Exodus story is the eating of the karpas ‘this a vegetable and everybody gets a piece, dipped in salt water and vinegar’ this is meant to represent the tears that were shed by the Jewish ancestors in there time of enslavement ‘it helps Jews to feel like slaves, so that they can feel for slaves’ The symbols on the seder plate are a reminder for those ‘present of egyption bondage, Gods redemption and the celebration in Temple times’ There also is a specific way in which the seder plate is to be arranged “thus the arrangement of the of the six iteams on the Seder plate resembles the Hebrew vowel segol-one segol atop the other (i. e. , the points of the two triangles, each pointing downwards, one atop the other).
The upper segol is made of the roasted bone, the egg, and the maror, while the lower segol is made of the charoses, the karpas, and the chazeres. ” It is a tradition that on the night of the seder each Jew of the household is to drink four cups of wine, the first after the ‘recital of the kiddish; the second with the account of the Exodus and the blessings for Redemption: The third with the Grace after meals; and the fourth with the Hallel prayers’ It is customary for a Jew to buy the most expensive wine that they can afford and it should traditionally be a red wine. There is also placed a ‘cup of Elijah: this cup symbolises the hospitality awaiting the passer-by and wayfarer’.
There also is a reference to the parchel offering which is a symbolism to Korban pesach in the sacrifice, directed by the Torah which was an offering practiced in ancient times however is no longer relevant today and is replaced with the roasted shank bone at the seder table to be eaten with bitter herbs. By Jews following and obtaining the laws that are given in the haggadah, regarding the seder the night they are not only upholding years of traditional customs but also remembering the suffering of their ancestors and celebrating their freedom. Freedom has a big symbolist value in the festival of the Passover ‘God intervened to save them from Egyptian Bondage’ The freedom of the Israelites in the story of exodus is one that effected the Jewish identity completely and Jews take from this story that ‘god answers prayer, attends to Israel’s condition, and responds to circumstance’
In conclusion the relevance of Passover in the Jewish identity is that the history of the Jewish people regulates the laws and regulations over the Jewish showing that the religion is always adapting to its people, and by celebrating pesach it is a constant reminder in Judaism of their heritage and the struggle they have been through to get to where they are today and that gods relationship with them is ‘direct and intimate and immediate’. This is not only a celebration of their freedom but ‘celebrates “the season of our freedom” not only theirs, long past’ .
1. Angela Wood, Passover, First published 1997, Wayland Publishers Ltd (East Sussex) 2. Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Judaism, History Belief and Practice, First published 2003, Routledge (London) 3. Jacob Neusner, Judaism, The basics, First published 2006, Routledge (Oxon) 4. Eliyahu Kitov, The Heritage Haggadah-with laws, customs, traditions, and commentary for the Seder night, First published 1999 by Yad Eliyahu Kitov (Newyork)