Passover Fun Facts

by on April 12, 2014

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Are you hungry for facts and stories about Passover? Here is some interesting information you might enjoy and ponder.

The Burning Bush
We learn in the Passover story that Moses experiences a holy moment with God when he notices a burning bush in the desert. Many historians and scientists indicate that in ancient times, desert brush would catch on fire, spontaneously, quite regularly. This miracle of the burning bush was most likely not that fact that it was burning, but that it was burning without being consumed. This strikes me as a good lesson about the power of observation – sometimes things that seem quite ordinary, are in fact, anything but, and offer us extraordinary opportunities for holiness, and in Moses’ case, finding our destiny.

The Crossing of the Red/Reed Sea
The ancient Israelites rush out of Egypt as fast as they can and come upon a body of water (referred to as either the Red or Reed Sea, depending on who you ask, a discussion for another post) that is too deep to cross. The people are afraid to enter the water, and the Egyptian army is right behind so there is no time to waste. Moses raises his staff and the water parts so that the Israelites can get across. While it is of course an impressive miracle to make a body of water stop moving, and split apart (though some scientists say this could have been something related to the tides of the water), the part of this story that has always seemed even MORE impressive to me, is that the text tells us that the water parted, but also that the land underneath was dry. Whoa. I really don’t think there is a scientific explanation for that. The challenging part of this part of the story is that the second the Israelites get across safely, the waters close back up, and the Egyptian army is swept away and drowns. This is a bittersweet aspect of the Passover story – to be so grateful for our freedom and our lives, and to know that others died as a part of our struggle for freedom. Many families remove a drop of wine/grape juice during the Seder as the 10 plagues are recited to remove just a bit of our joy and abundance as we remember the lives that were lost as a result of the plagues, and our escape from slavery. There is a beautiful story about a courageous man named Nachman Ben Aminadav, stepping into the waters before they parted, because his faith was so strong.

The Four Questions
For a holiday with a tremendous amount of elaborate and unusual rituals and traditions, and a story that is long and pretty complex, it seems like we would have a lot more than only 4 questions. And, if you’ve been attending 1 or 2 Seders a year for many years, you may have grown a bit bored of these questions. So, I offer you this Fifth Question to enhance your Seder this year if you wish. In Hebrew, the word for Egypt is Mitzrayim. This word comes from the word m’tzarim, which means narrowness or narrow straits, or even tightness or distress. For the ancient Israelites, Egypt was certainly a place of great tzar – narrowness and distress.

So the fifth question is this, Where in your life, or your family’s life, do you feel this sense of Mitzrayim?  Where do you experience narrowness and, what would it take for you to cross onto dry land in freedom?

Happy Pesach!

Enjoy some delicious Passover recipes here.

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