Thursday, March 27, 2014


Passover has several names in the Torah, each one saying something different about the meaning of the holiday:

Chag HaPesach – The Festival of the Paschal Offering.  On the night of the fourteenth of the first month (which we call Nisan), the Torah instructs us to offer a special sacrifice of an unblemished lamb.  It is to be eaten roasted, along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, as a “holy barbecue” by a person’s entire household, along with guests.  In ancient Israel, this celebration marked the renewal of spring.
Chag HaMatzot – The Festival of Unleavened Bread.  Beginning on the fifteenth day of the first month, a seven day festival takes place on which all leavened products must be removed from the home.  Only unleavened bread may be eaten.  This was an agricultural holiday that celebrated the beginning of the grain harvest.
Orginally, Chag HaPesach and Chag HaMatzot were two separate ancient holidays that had nothing to do with the Exodus from Egypt.  The Torah, however, combines them into a single festival that symbolizes the Exodus, while retaining the earlier associations.
The paschal sacrifice must be eaten quickly – with loins girded, sandals on feet and staff in hand – as if ready to depart that night.  None of the sacrifice can be left over the next morning.  The name Pesach also came to be associated with the tenth plague.  The Israelites painted their doorposts with the blood from the paschal sacrifice so that the angel of death would “pass over” (pasach) their homes, sparing their first born children.
Matzah came to symbolize freedom.  Our ancestors did not have time to let the dough rise before leaving Egypt, so they had to make due with unleavened bread. 
With the joining of these two holidays, the Torah adds two additional names that incorporate the historical elements into the seasonal/agricultural celebrations
Chag HaCheirut – The Festival of Freedom.  In the kiddush for Passover, we refer to the holiday as Z’man Cheiruteinu, the time of our freedom.  The Exodus from Egypt is the founding experience of the Jewish people.  It plays a primary role in our collective consciousness.  The memory of slavery is meant to inspire us to behave compassionately towards those who are suffering.  The experience of freedom serves as an eternal bond between us and God.
Chag HaAviv – The Festival of Spring.  This name ties together the agricultural and historical aspects of the holiday.  Springtime is the time for renewal, the beginning of the grain harvest, and the time when our ancestors were freed from Egypt.  Because of the Torah’s reference to Passover as a springtime holiday, we adjust the lunar-based Hebrew calendar.  During seven years out of every nineteen year cycle, we add an additional month to ensure that Passover always occurs on the night of the first full moon after the Spring equinox.
Of course, we include all of these elements in our celebration of Passover today.  We have reminders of the paschal offering on our seder plate, along with symbolic representations of springtime and rebirth.  We tell the story of God freeing our ancestors from slavery, and we re-experience that freedom ourselves.
So whatever you want to call it – Chag HaPesach, Chag HaMatzot, Chag HaCheirut, or Chag Ha-Aviv – HAVE A HAPPY PASSOVER!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

This Weekend

Just a reminder about a couple of excellent Jewish community events this weekend. 

Saturday morning we have our Tot Shabbat at 9:30 

Sunday at Main Street Landing Theatre Kavanah, a relatively new community Jewish theater group, is presenting the Maple Edition Jewish Plays Project (JPP).  The audience gets to see parts of 3 new Jewish plays, vote by text as to which one they like the best, and that one will go on the compete in the national JPP this June in NYC.  For details go to:

Monday, March 3, 2014

March Madness

Drop everything.  Put on your calendar, March 15th.   That is the evening of Purim and our Brotherhood* and Sisterhood* have some special events planned that night, starting at 5 with Havdallah, Megillah reading, events for the kiddies, dinner, and entertainment from our very own Dag (the House Rock Shabbat Band), with all new dance music.  In case you don’t know, Purim is kind of the Jewish Halloween in that wearing a costume is de rigueur.  

Another custom is to drink until ‘ahd lo yodah’ – you can’t tell the difference between cursed Haman and blessed Mordechai.  

Friday night, 7th - is our monthly Folk Service at 5:30

This Sunday, March 9th, we have Story Hour.  Don’t forget that Saturday night/Sunday morning is time to set your clocks ahead one hour so make sure you do that and don’t show up here at the wrong time.  Story Hour is 10:00 a.m.

Tot Shabbat this month is Saturday the 22nd  at 9:30

Family/Youth service is on the 28th at 5:30; dinner afterwards sponsored by Brotherhood

And on Sunday, March 23rd is the Jewish Plays Project.  If you’re not familiar with it, check out:

Would you like to know about other Jewish events happening in VT?  Join the mailing list of Jewish Communities of Vermont or like them on FB.

*Both Brotherhood and Sisterhood would love to have you as a member, if you’re not already one.