In the Haggadah, the liturgy used for the Passover Seder, one of the lines is “Let all who are hungry come and eat.”
That’s the philosophy behind the second annual Community Passover Seder, which will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at College Place United Methodist Church in Brunswick, in advance of the official Passover, which will be April 10-18 this year.
“This is an opportunity for people of all faiths to come together around something that unites us, rather than divides us,” said Rabbi Rachael Bregman of Temple Beth Tefilloh in Brunswick.
During the evening, Bregman said, a traditional Passover Seder will be held.
The Passover Seder includes specific foods that help tell the story of the Hebrews’ exodus from Egypt, which is what Passover commemorates. It is observed by avoiding leaven, and highlighted by Seder meals that include four cups of wine (or grape juice), eating matzah and bitter herbs and retelling the story of the Exodus.
Most people know the story of the Hebrews’ enslavement in Egypt and their subsequent escape. Forced into labor by Egyptian Pharaohs for decades, God, according to the biblical account in Exodus, intervened, and sent Moses to Pharaoh with a message to let them go. Pharaoh refused. God retaliated by sending 10 plagues to Egypt, including some that destroyed all their livestock and crops.
The final plague was to kill all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians, but God passed over the Hebrews, which is the miracle that gives the eight-day holiday its name. After Pharaoh realized he was defeated, his armies chased the slaves out of Egypt. The Israelites left in such a hurry the bread they baked to eat along the way didn’t have time to rise, which is why unleavened bread is consumed during Passover.
“All the foods in the Seder are symbolic of some part of the story,” she said.
The foods, according to reformjudiasm.org, in addition to matzo, the unleavened bread, include:
• Maror and chazeret – Bitter herbs that symbolize the bitterness and harshness of the slavery the Hebrews endured in Egypt.
• Charoset — A mixture of apples, honey, nuts, and wine or grape juice that represents the mortar the Hebrew slaves used to build the storehouses or pyramids of Egypt.
• Karpas — A vegetable other than bitter herbs, which is dipped into salt water at the beginning of the Seder. Parsley is commonly used, as is horseradish. The dipping of the vegetable and the resulting drips of water off the vegetable represents tears and is a reminder of the pain felt by Hebrew slaves in Egypt.
• Zeroa — The only element of meat on the seder plate. Most commonly a roasted lamb or goat shank bone, chicken wing or chicken neck, it represents the Pesach sacrifice, which was a lamb that was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem, then roasted and eaten as part of the Seder meal.
• Beitzah — A hard-boiled egg that symbolizes the festival sacrifice offered in the Temple in Jerusalem, and eaten as part of the Seder meal. The egg is a symbol of mourning — eggs are the first thing served to mourners after a funeral. They evoke the idea of mourning of over the destruction of the Temple.
The ceremonial meal is not the only meal being served, however. A traditional Passover meal will also be served, including, according to Bregman, matzo ball soup, brisket, a vegetable side and dessert.
Bregman returns to that line from the Haggadah – “Let all who are hungry come and eat.”
“The way we are making that manifest is by donating to three organizations who serve people in our community who are food insecure — Sparrow’s Nest, United Way and Second Harvest.”
The host congregations for the dinner are Temple Beth Tefilloh, Atlama Presbyterian Church, Christ Church Frederica, College Place United Methodist Church, First Presbyterian Church of Brunswick, First United Methodist Church of Brunswick, St. James Lutheran Church, St. Simons Presbyterian Church, Unitarian Universalists of Coastal Georgia and FaithWorks.
Although Passover and the Passover Seder is typically a Jewish tradition, the Rev. Wright Culpepper, executive director at FaithWorks and an event organizer, said Christians have much to learn from the dinner.
“Since the story of Exodus is a major part of both the Jewish and Christian faith traditions, it becomes a place where two religions can touch base and share our common heritage,” Culpepper said. “It was the Seder meal that Jesus and his disciples were sharing during Passover at the Last Supper, which is so important to the Christian faith.
“Because of Rabbi Bregman’s commitment and the friendships that have been formed among numerous clergy in our community, it was a natural place of us to celebrate being in community with one another.”
Culpepper said Christians often take for granted that the Christian faith grew out of the Jewish faith and spread throughout the Gentile world.
“We rarely ask why we do the things we do in church, but the truth of the matter is that many of the Christian practices are based on the practices, traditions, laws and rituals of the Hebrew faith,” he said. “The more we reconnect to the story of God throughout history, the more God becomes real to us today.”
Culpepper also addressed the purpose of the dinner.
“As we celebrate that God feeds us, we choose to feed others in our community who are hungry,” he said.