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The eight-day festival of Passover is celebrated in the early spring, from the 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nissan. This year those dates correspond to the eve of April 14 through April 22. The holiday commemorates the emancipation of the Jewish people from slavery in Ancient Egypt through many miraculous events such as the Ten Plagues and the Splitting of the Red Sea.
With the last of the ten plagues, Death of the Firstborn, Pharaoh's resistance was broken, and he virtually chased his former slaves out of the land. The Israelites left in such a hurry, in fact, that the bread they baked as provisions for the way did not have time to rise. Among other Passover observances, it is the Jewish tradition not to eat any leavened breads for the duration of the holiday, and to eat Matzah - flat unleavened bread.
For the duration of the eight day holiday, the Jewish home is cleared of all remnants and crumbs of leavened bread, cake, or the like. The Passover version of bread, Matza, is made by mixing flour with water and baking it in an oven. However, no time is allowed for the dough to ferment and rise, and the result is a flat, hard, cracker-like bread.
Jewish tradition teaches that leavened bread, with its characteristic fluffiness, represents ego and self-aggrandizement, while matza represents humility. It is specifically matza, the flat bread, which Jewish liturgy refers to as "the bread of faith." This is because the egotistical person who is swelled by pride, does not leave room for a higher truth to enter his or her life. The entire motivation behind any behaviors or thoughts is self-fulfilling and self serving. On the other hand, the humble person is receptive to faith in a Higher Being, and is willing to commit to a strong set of morals and values.
Well, one might ask, if matza represents such a virtuous state of being, why is it not eaten all year long in place of leavened bread? This is because both the virtues symbolized by leavened bread, and the virtues symbolized by unleavened bread, are necessary for a life of productivity and meaning. It is of ultimate importance that a person recognize the significance of their actions and have confidence in their ability to affect change in the people and world around them. At the same time, one should not get so carried away with his self worth that he leaves no room for people and principles outside of his immediate comfort zone.
This is the paradoxical nature of our relationship with bread. On the one hand, leavened bread sustains us practically all year long. Its presence is vital and necessary. On the other hand, for eight days each year it is banned by Jewish law. Both of these practices carry practical applications to our personal lives as growing and developing human beings.
Other Passover observances include conducting a Seder on the eve of April 14 and 15. (Monday and Tuesday evenings). The Seder is a fifteen--step, family oriented, tradition and ritual packed feast.
The focal points of the Seder are:
*Eating bitter herbs—to commemorate the bitter slavery endured by the Israelites.
*Drinking four cups of wine or grape juice—a royal drink to celebrate the newfound freedom.
*The recitation of the Haggadah, a liturgy that describes in detail the story of the Exodus from Egypt. The Haggadah is the fulfillment of the biblical obligation to recount to our children the story of the Exodus on the night of Passover.