Passover – celebrating a miracle

The Jewish Community of the Algarve will be celebrating the first night of the eight-day Passover festival with a communal ‘Seder’, or dinner, on Monday April 5. Reading the Hagada (story) is central to these festivities. This involves elders relating the story of the Exodus of the Israelites from slavery under the Pharaohs in Egypt some 3,000 years ago. This is done in response to four questions about the significance of the festival, posed by the youngest present. The reading of the Hagada is followed by a meal featuring special foods commemorating the hardships of slavery.

The Exodus is the story of how, long ago, a Pharaoh decreed that all babies born in slavery were to be drowned in the River Nile. A mother had placed her newborn infant son in a floating basket in order to save him and the Pharaoh’s daughter found this basket downstream. She brought the child up in the royal court. The baby’s name was Moses and he was chosen by God to free the Israelites from slavery. As a young man, Moses was perturbed by the harsh treatment his people were receiving and pleaded with the Pharaoh to allow them to leave Egypt. When the Pharaoh refused, God intervened and brought 10 plagues down on Egypt. The 10th plague, the visiting of the Angel of Death on all Egyptian firstborn, caused the Pharaoh to relent and agree to allow the Israelites to leave.The departure was so hurried that there was no time for the bread the Israelites had prepared to rise; this unleavened bread is now called Matzo. To this day, Jews worldwide eat only Matzo during the eight days of Passover. Despite agreeing to the Exodus, the Pharaoh reneged and sent his soldiers after the fleeing Israelites. But, at the Red Sea, Moses parted the water and the Israelites crossed safely. The sea closed again and the pursuing soldiers were drowned.

The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years, during which time they received the 10 Commandments on Mount Sinai. After 40 years in the desert, the Israelites entered the Promised Land of Canaan.

• Further information from Ralf Pinto on Tel 282 416 710, Fax 282 416 515 or e-mail: Ralf.Pinto@sapo.pt