Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Happy Passover

 

Passover blessings

Passover is commemorated by the entire Jewish community with great zeal and gusto across the world. Marked as one of the most significant festivals of the Jews, Passover celebrates the liberation of the Jews from the slavery of the ancient Egyptians. Celebrated on the 15th day of the first month of the Hebrew calendar, Pesach is distinguished by various rituals and customs followed by the Jews. The Passover Seder is the most noted ritual of this festival. It is held on the evening of the 14th day and includes customs, such as drinking wine, eating matzo and partaking of symbolic foods from the Seder plate. To add on, blessings form an important aspect of the Passover Seder. They are recited at different times during the entire course of the supper. Read on further to know the different blessings made during the Pesach holiday dinner.

Jewish blessings of Pesach

  • The first set of blessings starts off with ‘Kiddush’ just after nightfall. People present gather around the Seder table and chant blessings, while raising their first cup of wine, known as the Kadeish. Kadeish is an Armanic word which means the ‘cup of sanctification’ or ‘the blessing’. The main idea behind this blessing is to bless all the Jewish festivals and people celebrating the occasion. The Kiddush includes three blessings of which the first one is undertaken at the wine. The second follows on the festival of Passover and third for praising and thanking the Lord for enabling the Jews to witness the current Passover. 
  • The next blessing comes at the third stage of Seder, that is, Karpas which means green vegetable consumed after dipping it in salt water, lime juice or vinegar. This is done to symbolize new hopes for the future while green represents the spring season. The vegetable is dipped in salt water to remind people about the tears shed and the pain suffered by the Jews during the enslavement by the Egyptians. The green vegetable used is usually lettuce, celery or parsley. While dipping the vegetable in salt water, blessings from the Haggadah are recited.
  • The next blessing is recited at the fifth step, that is, the Maggid after the completion of the Passover story. The first two psalms of the Hallel are recited, which is followed by offering prayers to enable the Jews to get a chance to celebrate Passover and other Jewish festivals time and again.
  • The most important blessings come at the sixth step or Rachtzah during the Passover meal. This includes eating matzah and reciting blessings. However, before eating matzah, every person washes his hands thoroughly for the second time. Also while washing hands, a blessing is recited.
  • The seventh step is the Motzee which forms the first part of the Matzah blessing. The leader at the Seder meal takes charge and reads out the ‘Hamotzi’ from the holy Haggadah while holding 3 pieces of matzah. ‘Hamotzi’ is a Hebrew word which means ‘bringing forth’. Hence, this blessing is made as a part of bringing forward the bread by the Lord.
  • The eighth step is the second part of the matzah blessing. After reciting the ‘Hamotzi’ from the holy book, the leader drops down the bottom matzah piece and continues with chanting the next blessing while holding the remaining two pieces.
  • ‘Al Achilat Maror’ is the next blessing which forms the ninth step of the Seder meal. ‘Al Achilat Maror’ means ‘the blessing over eating bitter herbs’. This step is also known as the step of the Maror, bitter herb dipped in an unclear sweet liquid called charoset and then consumed.
  • The 13th step of Seder meal is called the Barech and includes the chanting of the blessing called ‘Birkat HaMazon’ (Grace after Meals). This is undertaken as an expression of gratitude, awareness and realization what every person has done on the Seder table. The third cup of wine is poured at this point and the blessing is chanted collectively.
  • Finally at the 14th step, the final blessing is made. After the verses from the holy Haggadah are made, the fourth cup of wine is blessed and consumed in a reclined position. Next, the Birkat HaMazon is recited once again.
Wishing Happy and Peaceful Passover!

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