Dear B’nai Shalom members, families, and friends:
Even with the ongoing rules and restrictions concerning the COVID-19 virus precautions, in one form or another, you will certainly be busily preparing for the upcoming Passover holiday. With just a few leniencies permitted because of the growing number of people who have already received their COVID vaccinations, it is our collective hope that THIS YEAR, Pesach can be celebrated somewhat more in the traditional manner to which we have become accustomed over the years rather than the more isolated way in which we were compelled to celebrate the holiday LAST YEAR — including the Seders — without the joy of the gathering of families and friends.
I share with you the following holiday review in order to assist families in their understanding of the holiday and therefore to enhance the enjoyment of the holiday traditions, rituals, and customs:
Many families will hold dear the particular food smells, the sentimental sounds of identifiably Pesach melodies, the very specific nusach (traditional tune) of the Pesach Kiddush, and the joyful, family-friendly singing of the Dayenu, Chad Gadya, and Mah Nishtana. The Four Questions, the “Mah Nishtana,” in particular, has been known to bring joy, pride, and pleasure to countless Jewish families for many generations.
Pesach is known by four Hebrew names, each of which has a major role in the active celebration of the holiday. They are: Chag HaMatzot (the Holiday of Matzah); Chag Ha Pesach (the holiday of “Passing over,” Chag HaAviv (the Holiday of Springtime); and Zman Cheruteinu (the time of our freedom).
The name Chag HaMatzot is well known and recalls the manner in which our ancestors, the Bnai Yisrael, the Children of Israel, needed to leave the bondage of the Land of Egypt in haste, without allowing the bread they were preparing for the journey to fully rise. This name is one of two for the holiday which is included in the Passover Kiddush and is easy to understand for its inclusion as one of the four names of this holiday.
Chag HaPesach, the holiday of “Passing Over” is the name which has gained the most popularity as the identification by which we typically refer to this holiday. The “passing over” refers to the exclusion of the Jewish homes during the Tenth Plague of Slaying of The First Born, during which, HaKadosh Baruch Hu, The Holy One, Blessed be he, “passed over our homes,” in slaying the firstborn sons of every Egyptian household, and sparing OUR firstborn sons.
The name Chag HaAviv, the Holiday of Springtime, has two meanings attached to it. The first is the simple understanding that Hashem took us out of Egypt in the Springtime – the perfect time for a nation of millions of men, women, and children to move slowly from the Egyptian desert towards Eretz Yisrael in the heat of the summer would have been unbearable and the rains of the autumn and winter would have created an obstacle precariously dangerous to the wellbeing of Bnai Yisrael in their travels. This underscores the kindness and compassion as well as the love and devotion HaKdosh Baruch had, and continues to have for us, His Chosen People.
The Holiday of Springtime also connotes the time of year in which all living things are brought back to life after hibernation during the winter months. Plants and all vegetation bloom and grow as all living creatures are born and assigned their appropriate place in the animal kingdom. We too, the Bnai Yisrael were born in spring: we emerged from Egypt as a new and vibrant civilization of people. We went down to Egypt few in number, and we grew and multiplied while sojourning in Egypt and then becoming slaves to Pharaoh. However, we came forth with G-d’s Mighty Hand and Outstretched Arm, to become magnificent new nation, G-d’s people, G-d’s nation.
The fourth of the four names for the holiday, Zman Cheruteinu, literally means “The Time of Our Freedom,” and is the second name included in the Pesach Kiddush. We could not function as a newly-born, newly-freed people, working hard to fulfill the will of our G-d, if not for the freedom in which to with all expected from us from Almighty G-d.
During our own Passover Seder services and ceremonies, may we create sounds, aromas, tunes, sights, and memorable images for our children, grandchildren, families, friends, and — with G-d’s help and a COVID-free environment- -may Pesach continue to be the widely-celebrated festival that it has been for countless years.
Chag Kasher v’Sameach,
Rabbi Dr. Yaacov Dvorin