The Pesach Window
God appears to Moses in the form of a bush which burns but is not consumed and commands him to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt. God gives a sign to Pharaoh when Moses’ staff is turned into a serpent and Moses pleads to set the Israelites free. The Pharaoh refuses and God visits ten plagues upon Egypt, a punishment or affliction for each successive refusal of freedom; blood, frogs, lice, swarms of beasts, murrain, boils, hail, locusts, darkness and it is not until the death of the first-born, where God passes over the houses of the Israelites, marked with the blood of the sacrificial lamb, that the Pharaoh relents.
The Red Sea parts for the hastily escaping Israelites yet closes behind to drown the pursuing Pharaoh’s army. In the desert the Israelites start their journey towards the promised land and celebrate their freedom at the seder. The three matzot, the bread unleavened in the haste of departure, are placed one atop the other, symbolising the three categories of Jews, Priests, Levites and Israelites.
On the seder plate is placed –
- karpas, a vegetable, usually green, symbolising Spring and rebirth. It is dipped in salt water near the beginning of the seder, the salt water symbolic of the tears shed during slavery.
- haroset, a mixture of chopped apple, nuts, wine and species symbolising the mortar that the slaves made for bricks in Egypt.
- Maror, bitter herbs, reminder of the slavery in Egypt.
- Beitzah, roasted egg, symbol of the festival sacrifice offered by each Jew, going up to the Temple in Jerusalem.
- Zeroah, roasted bone, symbol of the Passover sacrifice.
There are four cups of wine with ten drops spilled, one for each of the ten plagues reminding that though the Egyptians deserved punishment, nevertheless they were creatures of God whose suffering causes us to lose a drop of joy from the cup of life. An extra cup for Elijah is set aside.
The four questions are asked (written on the panel). Why is this night different from all other nights by eating only unleavened bread? Why do we eat bitter herbs? Why do we dip herbs? Why do we surround the celebration with many ceremonies?
God promises protection to the Israelites as if under the wings of an eagle and sets them a sign in the desert, a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.