Jews around the world begin celebrating the feast of Passover at sundown Friday, April 6.
The festival dates to biblical times, and its beginnings can be found in Exodus at the end of the plagues that forced the pharaoh of Egypt to allow the Israelites to leave with Moses.
God had Moses go to pharaoh to ask him to release the Israelites from slavery. When the request was denied, a series of infestations of pests, illnesses in people and livestock, and natural disasters fell on the country.
However, the worst of the events start in Exodus 11.
Moses warns Pharaoh that God is going to kill all the firstborn sons throughout Egypt. However, the people of Israel will be spared.
In Exodus 12, the Israelites are given instructions: They are to slaughter lambs and use the blood to mark their door frames. They are to eat the meat that evening, and they are to stay inside. As long as the Israelites followed these rules they would be spared the destruction the Egyptians faced.
When the original Passover event happened, killing many, the Egyptians “urged the people to hurry and leave the country.” (New International Version)
This is the Exodus that eventually led the children of Israel to the Promised Land.
The story in Exodus made provision for the Jews to celebrate the event throughout the generations. Exodus 12 lists the format of the celebration — rules still observed today. These include:
• For seven days, Jewish families don’t have any food with yeast in their homes.
• They hold assemblies on the first and seventh days of the Passover.
• During a ceremonial meal known as a seder, ritual questions are asked and answered about the meaning of Passover.
Through the years, symbolic foods have been served in the seder.
Both Baton Rouge Jewish congregations have Passover activities listed on their websites:
• Beth Shalom Synagogue, 9111 Jefferson Highway, will hold a congregational seder at 7 p.m. April 7 and festival services at 9 a.m. April 8 and April 13 and 10 a.m. April 14. Go online at http://bethshalomsynagogue.org for information.
• Congregation B’nai Israel, 3354 Kleinert Ave., will hold a seder at 5:30 p.m. April 7. Go online at http://bnai-israel.com for information about reservations and costs.
Sometimes non-Jewish congregations will also observe Passover.
For example, the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge, 8470 Goodwood Blvd., has scheduled a seder for 6 p.m. Thursday. Visit http://www.unitarianchurchbr.com/ for details.
Send ideas to Leila Pitchford-English, The Advocate, P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821-0588; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.