Cornwall

Jewish Festival of Passover

Preparing Matza
Image caption Matza is a traditional handmade Passover unleavened bread

Cornwall's Jewish community has held a traditional Seder meal to celebrate the first night of Passover.

Around 70 people attended the prayers and meal held at Trelissick Gardens near Truro.

Passover celebrates the Israelites' liberation from Egypt by Moses, and lasts for eight days.

During that time Jewish people follow a special diet.

Passover's name comes from the last of the 10 plagues on Egypt in the Bible.

It is said that the angel of death 'passed over' the homes of the Jews in Egypt, saving their first born from death.

Before celebrations can begin the house must be cleaned from top to bottom to remove any traces of chametz (leaven) from the home.

This commemorates the Jews leaving Egypt who did not have time to let their bread rise, but also symbolises removing 'puffiness' (arrogance, pride) from their souls.

The day before Passover begins there is a ritual search for chametz in every home. The children usually join in with great enthusiasm.

The Haggadah is a book which tells in 14 steps the story of the Jewish experience in Egypt and of the Exodus and revelation of God.

As the story of each of the ten plagues is read out a drop of wine is spilt to remind Jews that their liberation was tinged with sadness at the suffering of the Egyptians.

The Four Questions

The haggadah also contains songs, blessings, psalms and Four Questions. These four questions are:

Why do we eat unleavened bread?

Unleavened bread or matzo is eaten to remember the Exodus when the Israelites fled Egypt with their dough to which they had not yet added yeast.

Why do we eat bitter herbs?

Bitter herbs, usually horseradish, are included in the meal to represent the bitterness of slavery.

Why do we dip our food in liquid?

At the beginning of the meal a piece of potato is dipped in salt water to recall the tears the Jews shed as slaves.

Why do we eat in a reclining position?

In ancient times, people who were free reclined on sofas while they ate. Today cushions are placed on chairs to symbolise freedom and relaxation, in contrast to slavery.

Usually the youngest person present will ask the questions and the father will respond.

The paradox of this is that these four questions should be asked spontaneously, but celebrations cannot happen unless they are asked.

Jews have celebrated Passover since around 1300 BC.

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