Pesach greetings and trivia

Five Minutes for Israel
wishes all its readers who celebrate it
“a kosher and joyous Passover”

If you are perplexed by the vocabulary there is a glossary at the end.

History bits-and-pieces

  • Venice Haggadah

    View of Jerusalem Venice Haggadah 1609†

    Reading the Haggadah at the Seder table is carrying out the mitzvah to “tell your son” of the Jewish liberation from slavery in Egypt as described in the Book of Exodus (“And thou shalt tell thy son in that day, saying: It is because of that which the LORD did for me when I came forth out of Egypt.” Ex. 13:8 [Sometimes translated in more feminist times ‘tell your child’. Girls get to sit in as men and women are equally obliged and eligible to take part in the Seder].

  • Leipnik Haggadah

    Temple in Jerusalem Leipnik Haggadah, Altona 1740*

    Scholars  broadly agree that the Exodus story was composed in the 5th century BCE. The traditions behind it can be traced in the writings of the 8th-century BCE prophets.

  • Those place-names on the Exodus route that have been identified – GoshenPithomSuccothRamesses and Kadesh Barnea – point to the geography of the 1st millennium BCE.
  • The Haggadah could not have been completed earlier than the time of Rabbi Yehudah bar Elaay (circa 170 CE) who is the last  Rabbinic sage to be quoted.
  • A handful of scholars, including the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, have suggested a link between the Israelites and the Hyksos, a mysterious Semitic people—possibly from Canaan—who controlled lower Egypt for more than 100 years before their expulsion during the 16th century B.C. However the two cultures seem quite dissimilar.

… and more modern

  • In the 1980s, Dartmouth professor Susannah Heschel spoke on a panel at Oberlin College. While there, she met some students who told a story of a rabbi who said “There’s as much room for a lesbian in Judaism as there is for a crust of bread on the seder plate.” In response, they started placing a crust on their plates.
  • Other more modern additions include oranges or tangerines, pine cones (symbolising mass incarceration), an artichoke (to recognise interfaith families), or tomatoes or Fair Trade chocolate (to remember that there’s still slavery around the world).
  • When Coca Cola switched to high fructose corn syrup it created a problem for Ashkenazi Jews. There is a special yellow-capped version certified kosher for them.
  • In 1932 the Maxwell House company began publishing the Maxwell House Haggadah. In the years since, Maxwell House estimates that it has published 50 million Haggadahs, which were even the preferred text for the Obama White House Seder.
  • The world’s largest seder is conducted in Kathmandu, Nepal.
  • The use of L’Shana Haba’ah B’Yerushalayim (lit. “Next year in Jerusalem”) at the end of the Passover seder was first recorded by Isaac Tyrnau in his 15th century book on the Minhag (religious customs) of various Ashkenazi communities.
  • Each year 5,000 food industry vendors, journalists and other professionals gather for Kosherfest in New York City to sample kosher fare from 300 event attendees. Much of the food is kosher for Pesach.
  • If you celebrate a seder night and haven’t yet visited Jerusalem, surely the phrase should be:
    THIS YEAR IN JERUSALEM!

Pesach glossary (in the order the words appear in this blog post

  • Cairo Haggadah

    Haggadah from Cairo. Dated to about 1,000 C.E.It is believed to be the oldest, surviving example.

    Kosher foods conform to the Jewish dietary regulations. By extension, it can be used fully interchangeably with ‘proper’ or ‘pure’ or ‘lawful’.

  • Pesach and Passover mean the same. The festival celebrating the Jewish escape from slavery in Egypt about 1300 BCE and return to the land of Israel. (I’m not qualified to argue whether it really happened that way). Historically Passover is one of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals during which the entire population of the kingdom of Judah made a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem.
  • Haggadah is a special text which retells the story of the Exodus from Egypt together with rabbinical discussion of what it all means and the the sequence of the ritual. In many ways the decoration of this book is a uniquely Jewish art form.
  • Seder meaning ‘order’ is traditional meal with traditional foods. The most iconic is the flat bread called Matza. I once told my primary school class that Matza was Israeli  ‘survival rations’. Probably more perceptive than I realised at the time.
  • Mitzvah Hebrew translated as ‘commandment’, refers to a moral deed performed within a religious duty.
  • Ashkenazi roughly translates as ‘Jew from Germany’, or the many names for the region comprising Germany today. Pesach traditions for other Jewish groups are quite similar.
  • Minhag is an accepted tradition or group of traditions in Judaism.

Extra credit


†The Education Center of the National Library of Israel [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
British Library Shelfmark:Sloane MS 3173

About David Guy

B.A./B.C.A. (Communication and Media Arts) University of Wollongong, AUSTRALIA M.A. in Government (Diplomacy and Conflict Studies) Inter Disciplinary Center, Herzliya, ISRAEL Twitter @5MFI
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