When Israel was in Egypt land—Let my people go
Oppressed so hard they could not stand—Let my people go
Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt’s land
Tell old Pharaoh—to let my people go.
This well-known American spiritual, which is associated with the fight against racism and segregation in this country, has its roots in the story of Passover.
It is the story of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt to Israel—a journey which was led by Moses. But it is much more than that. It is the story of freedom for any oppressed people and an important holiday for Christians as well. Passover comes at a different time every year—just like Easter. The Last Supper was a Passover seder. For that reason, many Christians are interested in attending seders and getting a look at their roots in the Old Testament.
This year, Eden United Church of Christ, 21455 Birch St., Hayward, is collaborating with to provide a community seder that is open to all. The church is donating the room, tables, silverware and speaker system, and Shir Ami is preparing the service and all of the food and wine.
The community seder will be held on Saturday, April 23, beginning at 4:30 p.m. It’s an opportunity to hear the story, participate in a Passover seder and experience the traditional food, music, and song of this historical holiday. Cost is $30 for adults and $10 for children under 12. Go to www.CongShirAmi.org. for additional information.
Like all Jewish holidays, Passover begins at sundown with the lighting of candles, blessings on wine and bread (in this case matzah, which is unleavened bread), and the careful retelling of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt.
Only unleavened bread is eaten at the seder, or Passover meal, to symbolize that the Israelites left Egypt in such haste that they didn’t have time to let their dough rise. In preparation, many Jewish families rid their houses of all bread products before Passover begins and eat only matzah during the eight-day Passover celebration.
This year Passover begins the evening of April 18 and continues through April 26. Most Jewish families have seders on the first two nights, but the seder can be held any night during the Passover period. Seder means “order,” and each seder includes a traditional dinner with specific foods, blessings and the telling of the Passover story. The Haggadah is a booklet—usually read from right to left, as Hebrew is written—that contains the story, the prayers and the traditional Passover rituals.
Some families have put personal touches to their Haggadah or have written their own to tell the story through unique perspectives. All Haggadah retell the story of the exodus from Egypt, but some emphasize Miriam as well as Moses, for example, and celebrate the history and role of the Jewish woman.
At one point during a traditional seder, we read about the ten plagues that were visited upon the Egyptians. Here, the participants are asked to remove one drop of wine from their glasses for each plague so that our cup of wine—a symbol of joy—is diminished in order to express our sorrow at our enemies' suffering. Many personal Haggadahs continue by asking participants to reflect on those things which continue to be plague our contemporary society: poverty, racism, cruelty, envy, apathy, violence.