Passover Supper
On Tuesday 11th March 2008, nearly 70 parishioners were given an insight into the way the Jewish community celebrate the Passover (or Pesach in Hebrew).  On arrival at the Social Centre, everyone was impressed by the way the event had been prepared and the obvious hard work of the organisers, Chris and Doreen Hairs.  We were led by Mrs Beverley Taylor, Lay Preacher and former Chairman at the South London Liberal synagogue.  Beverley took us through the ceremonial parts of the meal called the Passover Seder, which this year will be celebrated on 20th April (Jewish year 5,768).  The text of the Seder is written in a book called the Haggadah, and we were each given a copy so we could follow and respond to the many prayers and praises.
One of the three Matzahs was then broken by Beverley.  This is the famous unleavened bread eaten by the Jews fleeing Egypt when there was no time to allow it to rise.  As is traditional, one piece was hidden for later discovery by children attending.
This part of the meal reminded us graphically of the fact that Christ was celebrating just such a Seder at The Last Supper.  The breaking of bread and the blessing of wine was performed by Him, giving us His everlasting and true presence in the Eucharist.
The Maggid, or retelling of the story of the Exodus from Egypt, was then read.  The Maggid begins with the youngest person present asking the Four Questions, these being designed to aid understanding of the ceremony.   Catherine Price read these from the Haggadah.  The Maggid is designed to satisfy the needs of four different types of people: the wise son, who wants to know the technical details; the wicked son, who excludes himself (and learns the penalty for doing so); the simple son, who needs to know the basics; and the son who is unable to ask, the one who doesn’t even know enough to know what he needs to ask.  At the end of the Maggid, a blessing was recited over the second cup of wine and this was drunk.
Starting with the Kindling, when we lit our candles, we progressed through the many stages of the Seder, with several parishioners reading parts of the story and Beverley reading short sections of the Hebrew.  Four cups of wine are taken during the ceremony, each being drunk while leaning to the left.  This symbolizes freedom, its root taken from the way Roman free men would recline on their couches.  With our first cup of wine, we were told to dip in our fingers to splash drops on the table, one for each of the seven plagues.  Although the plagues ultimately helped the Israelites, their joy was diminished by the sufferings inflicted by their oppressors, and less wine in our cups signified this.  The first morsel taken was the Karpas, or vegetable, in our case a sprig of parsley, which is dipped in salted water.  The vegetable symbolizes the lowly origins of the Jewish people; the salt water representing the tears shed as a result of their slavery.
Revd David Camilleri | Tel: 01689 827100  |  281a Crescent Drive, Petts Wood, Orpington, BR5 1AY