– Passover Seder 101
by Rabbi Moishe Kievman
The eight-day festival of Passover is celebrated this year from sundown on Wednesday evening, April 5, 2023, until after nightfall on Thursday, April 13, 2023, with its highlight, the festive “Seder” dinners on the first 2 nights of the holiday. The festival of Passover commemorates the freedom of the Jewish nation from enslavement in Ancient Egypt, some 3335 years ago, in 1313 BCE. After many decades of slavery to the Egyptian pharaohs, G‑d sent Moses to Pharaoh with a message to: “Let My People Go.” When Moses’ warnings were dismissed, G‑d sent upon Egypt ten plagues, the last one being the killing of the Egyptian firstborn while “passing over” the Jewish homes—hence the name of the holiday.
To commemorate the unleavened bread that we ate when we left Egypt, we don’t eat—or even retain in our possession—any leavened grains known as chametz during the holiday. Chametz includes any food or drink that contains even a trace of wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt or their derivatives, and which wasn’t guarded from leavening or fermentation. Instead, we eat matzah—flat unleavened bread, at least for the two Seder nights, when it’s a Mitzvah (biblical commandment).
Our Rabbis explain that chametz is symbolic of haughtiness and egotism – traits so harmful that they are at the root of all negative traits. This is one of the reasons why even the most miniscule amount of chametz is forbidden – for these negative traits must be completely nullified.
Few Jewish holidays evoke the same warm sentiments as Passover. Memories of family and friends gathered as the four cups of wine are poured, the four questions asked and the Matzah served, all contribute to Passover’s popularity in the Jewish community. Bringing the warmth and tradition of this festival to every major city in the world, Chabad is inviting all Jewish residents and visitors to participate in Community Seders to be held on April 5th and 6th at locations throughout South Florida.
This year’s observance will be even more special as Jews around the world celebrate the year of Hakhel. The Hakhel year takes place every seven years, following the Shemita sabbatical year. In temple times it was celebrated by all Jewish people – men, women and children – coming together to Jerusalem and hearing the Torah read by the king. He would then inspire everyone to continue acting in a proper way, befitting for the Jewish people. Today Hakhel is celebrated simply by Jewish people getting together. In lieu of the king, we try to inspire each other. How much more so when coming together for an inspirational Seder.
The Passover Seder is a feast that includes reading, drinking wine, telling stories, eating special foods, singing, and other Passover traditions. The central observance of Passover—eating matzah, the unleavened bread—will take center stage at the Seder, with handmade round shmurah matzah, “The Rolls-Royce of matzah,” available to all.
The Seders take participants through the wondrous liberation of our ancestors from Egyptian bondage, while sharing the relevance and beauty of the age-old festival in our modern lives. Included in the Seder will be a delectable catered dinner paired with a variety of fine imported wines and handmade round ‘Shmurah’ Matzah.
Passover is not simply a celebration of the historic liberation of an ancient people. Passover is about our own personal liberation – physically, emotionally and spiritually, a message that rings true this year perhaps more than ever before in our lifetimes as we still face the challenges of the pandemic. Passover inspires us to break free from the shackles restraining us from reaching new heights – in our lives, relationships and connection with G-d.
Chabad’s community seder is part of a global Passover campaign that began in 1954, when the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, launched the Shmurah Matzah initiative. This year, over 600,000 people will participate at Seder at over 4,000 Chabad Centers throughout the world and an estimated four million hand-baked Shmurah Matzahs will be distributed.
We encourage you to contact your local Chabad or Synagogue to join the Seder nearest you. You are of course welcome to join us at our Seder in Highland Lakes. To learn more about the holiday, order a ready-made fully-prepared Seder plate, Shmura Matzah, RSVP for the seder or need help selling your Chametz, call (305) 770-1919 or visit ChabadChayil.org/passover, where you can also download for free a beautiful brand new Haggadah with easy to understand explanations.
About the author:
Rabbi Kievman together with his wife are the ambassadors of The Rebbe to Highland Lakes, FL. They are the founders of Gan Chabad Preschool, your local CTeen & CKids chapters, CHAP – an afterschool program for Jewish children in Public Schools and direct Chabad Chayil. He’s the rabbi at The Family Shul and can be reached at (305) 770-1919 or rabbi@ChabadChayil.org