Home page The Occident and American Jewish Advocate Jews in the Civil War Jews in the Wild West History of Palestine The Occident Virtual Library Shopping Mall of Zion AHAVA Hero Products 250x250

בס"ד

The Ceremonies.—The Passover.

Let us say a few words to our young readers on the subject of the approaching holy days.

At a time long since passed the forefathers of our people were held in cruel bondage by the Egyptians, a nation of former ages, who inhabited the land called Egypt, in the northeastern portion of Africa.

The Israelites had been invited to dwell in Egypt by one of the ancient kings of that country, after one of the sons of Jacob, called Joseph, had saved the people from the effects of a famine by foretelling its occurrence, and providing an ample supply of provisions, which were sold to the people during the time of the scarcity.

But after Joseph had died, the Egyptians forgot the gratitude which they owed to him and his family; and they subjected the Israelites, (so called after Jacob, surnamed Israel,) who had become very numerous, to the severest labour, and in fact reduced them to a state of slavery, which means that our fathers had to work whether they wished or not, at the command of others, without receiving any wages for their labour.

Several hundred years passed thus away, and the Israelites had lost even all desire for freedom; they were content to work, and almost looked upon the Egyptians as a superior class of men.

It was then that the Lord, who never forgets the humble and oppressed, thought, in his providence, that the Israelites had suffered long enough. He therefore selected a man called Moses, who was the son of Amram, of the tribe of Levi, to be the instrument to free his brothers from slavery. The Lord appeared to him in a wonderful manner, which we cannot clearly explain, whilst he was feeding sheep in the wilderness of Sinai, in the country of Arabia, and ordered him to go to Pharaoh, as the king of Egypt was called, and to ask of him to let the Israelites go free, that they might serve the God of their fathers in the wilderness. The king refused to obey this command of God; and instead of doing what Moses and his brother Aaron had asked of him, he increased the labour of the Israelites, saying that it was because they were lazy that they wished to go and serve the Lord.

When the king had in this manner refused to do justice to our forefathers, God did many wonderful things in Egypt, to prove to the people of that country, who worshipped idols, that He who is the Creator of every being logs alone the power to do every thing which He pleases, and that their images had no power whatever. But still tine king refused; he hardened his heart, and would not let Israel go. At length, to compel him to obey the will of God, every first-born son in all Egypt was slain at the hour of midnight, but not one Israelite died whilst all their oppressors were punished.

When the king thus found that the longer he resisted the severer he was punished; when he saw that his own son had died because the Lord had determined that his will should be done: he could no longer refuse obedience, but he sent for Moses and Aaron, and ordered them to quit Egypt with all the Israelites; and so great was the terror of the Egyptians, that they would not let the people stay long enough to prepare food for their journey, but drove them out hastily, for fear that they all might die.

It is for this reason that we are commanded to keep the Feast of Passover in the spring of every year, to keep alive in our memory the great miracle and the great kindness which the Lord did in our behalf; for had it not been for this redemption of our fathers from Egypt, we should have been to this day slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt. The festival is called Passover, Hebrew Paysach, "because the Lord passed over the houses of the children of the Israelites in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians and spared our houses."

The manner of observing the Passover is this: Some time before the commencement, unleavened bread is baked, made simply out of flour and water without any yeast or leaven, rolled out into thin cakes, which are baked as soon as possible after they are made, to prevent their becoming leavened by standing. This kind of bread alone is permitted to be eaten during the Passover week. Nothing in which there is leaven, either food or drink, is allowed to us during this time. This includes every species of bread or cake made in the ordinary way; all kinds of beer or strong drinks made of grain; and every food in which any of these substances or even unground grain has been mixed.

But as vessels which have been used for leaven are also prohibited to be used on the Passover, as are all gentile vessels in which prohibited food has peen boiled, prepared or put during other parts of the year: we cleanse all our vessels from leaven, either by means of fire or water, according to their nature, and remove all earthen and other utensils which cannot be purified.

On the two first evenings of the festival, all Israelites should assemble in their families and recite the history of our redemption from Egypt, and return thanks for the many mercies which we have received from God.

On the day before the festival, it is also customary for all the first-born to last in commemoration of the great goodness of the Lord in sparing the first-born of Israel, when all those belonging to the Egyptians died.

Now, young friends, we hope that you will know why we every year keep this festival, and why we sit down to the table and place there the unleavened bread, the bitter herbs, and other memorials; such as a bone and egg, in memory of the sacrifice of a lamb which was formerly offered at Jerusalem when the Temple yet stood; and the reason why we so solemnly bless the bread and wine, more so than on other occasions. It is to remind you, that you are Israelites, the children of promise, who owe every thing to God; and that you may feel that all you can do in return for his mercy is to obey the commandments and to live true sons of Israel in worshipping the only true God, and to glory in being his chosen servants.