Connecticut College News
Happy Pesach! - By Sarah Weiss ´1204/13/2009
By Gabrielle Kaminsky ´09
Happy Pesach! Or, better known, Happy Passover! This past Wednesday, April 8, many of the Jews of Connecticut College attended Passover Seder in Smith dining hall. The tables were complete with individual settings from the Seder plate, matzah, and what no Passover Seder is complete without: the Manischewitz wine. Rabbi Aaron Rosenberg and Cantorial Soloist Sherry Barnes led the service as students followed along in their Haggadas, enthusiastically reading the prayers and singing songs. A Haggada is the special Passover prayer book which is read from right to left, a feature common of all Hebrew texts. The purpose of the Passover Seder is to read from the Haggada, perform rituals, and remember the exodus of the Jewish people from ancient Egypt. The story goes as such: The Jewish people became enslaved by the ancient Egyptians when an "evil" Pharaoh took power. He proclaimed that all male Jewish babies were to be killed. The mother of Moses could not bear to kill her son, and instead sent him floating down the Nile River in a basket. Moses was found and raised by a daughter of the Pharaoh, but eventually left his homeland to become a shepherd. Then, God spoke to Moses from a burning bush, commanding Moses to deliver his people in Egypt from bondage. When the Pharaoh refused Moses´ plea to free the Jews, ten plagues descended upon the Egyptians. After the tenth plague, the killing of the first born son, the Pharaoh finally consented to free his slaves. The Jewish people saved themselves from this plague by painting lambs´ blood above their doorposts so the angel of death would "pass over" their homes. When the Jews learned of their freedom, they needed to leave Egypt quickly before the Pharaoh changed his mind. Therefore, they did not have time for their bread to rise, which is why we eat the unleavened bread, matzah, on Passover. Despite their haste, the Pharaoh did change his mind and went after the Jews. Moses commanded the parting of the Red Sea, and the Jewish people escaped to freedom as the sea crashed over the Egyptians. On Passover, Jews remember this story. The Seder plate contains symbolic foods to help to do that. First there is karpas, a vegetable such as parsley which is dipped into salt water to represent the tears shed during slavery. Next, there is maror, usually horse radish, a bitter herb eaten to remember the bitterness of slavery. Charoset represents the mortar the Jews were forced to build with throughout Egypt, and is usually a sweet combination of apples, nuts, and wine. There is a lamb shank bone as well, in memory of the sacrifice of the Paschal lamb. Then, there is an egg, which represents both the festival sacrifice and the mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. At the Seder in Smith, a modern element was also incorporated - an orange which represents the acceptance of women rabbis. "The asking of the four questions," traditionally done by the youngest person at the Seder, reveals the importance of eating matzah and relaxation. A rousing verse of Dayenu (translation: "it would have been enough") was sung as well as the story of the four sons to the tune of "Oh, my darling, Clementine." For children on Passover there is the hunt for the Afikomen, which is the middle matzah hidden at the beginning of the Seder for the children to find. Then, of course there are the traditional four glasses of wine. Finally, the main portion of the Seder concludes with what some people consider the most important feature of Passover: eating the festive meal. All in all, Wednesday´s Seder was a success with the large number of participants unified through prayer and celebration of Passover. During the week, dining halls on campus will offer alternative food options for students who follow the traditional Passover law of refraining from eating chametz, or certain leavening and fermenting agents, and things made with them, such as yeast breads, certain types of cake and biscuit and certain alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.