SPRING HILL — At sundown today, the Jewish community will begin the eight-day Passover celebration.
According to Rabbi David Levin, of the Temple Beth David Jewish Center, several names are used for the holiday.
"Passover has five different names," he said. "They call it the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of the Pascal Offering, the Festival of Spring and the Season of our Liberation. But they all go with Passover."
The name Passover is derived from the Hebrew word pesach and is generally translated to mean "to pass over." According to Jewish history, it is a commemoration of the time the Hebrews were captives in Egypt and the Angel of Death passed over their homes, instead of entering, because, as Moses had instructed them, they had painted blood from the paschal lamb on their door posts.
"With the coming of spring, we celebrate the rebirth of the natural world," Levin said. "For our own rebirth, at Passover, we tell the wondrous tale of the downtrodden slaves who became a nation of free people. The whole week of Passover commemorates the exodus from Egypt."
A highlight of the celebration is the Passover Seder, a meal that uses symbolism to recount the event. Tonight, observing Jews will have a Seder in their homes. On Sunday night, they will join with the community to celebrate a Seder together. Members and guests from Temple Beth David will meet at the Wellington at Seven Hills.
Levin will lead the service, using the Haggadah, a book that contains Passover songs, readings and prayers.
"It's a real symbolic, lovely service," he said. "We start with the recitation of the Kiddush, which is the drinking of the first cup of wine. Then we take the karpas, which is usually greens that symbolize spring and the renewal of life, and we dip that into the saltwater, a remembrance of the bitter tears of our enslaved ancestors."
Matzah is unleavened bread used in the service that recalls how the Hebrews had to leave Egypt quickly, not having time to leaven the bread in the usual manner. There are three matzahs on the Seder table.
"We have a ritual," explained Levin. "The middle matzah is broken, and half of it is set aside. We get all the kids to look for the middle matzah at the end of the meal, and they get a prize for finding it."
Other symbolic food is used, songs are sung and the Passover story is read.
"Everybody gets all excited after they make their traditional sandwich out of the matzah with the bitter herbs and the charoset," Levin said. "The holiday meal follows the ceremonies, and then the Afikomen is the last course ending the meal with a final taste of the matzah."
After the meal, a cup of wine is placed on the table.
"We sit it on the table for (the prophet) Elijah because the Jewish people believe that Elijah will herald the coming of the Messiah," Levin said. "All the lights are dimmed, and we fill up the wine and we sing a beautiful chant. And then the door is opened in the hope that the prophet will come to announce the event of the Messianic age."
The Seder concludes with more songs.
"The evening is a full one, and it goes through the whole story of the bitterness of slavery and the tears of suffering and the hopeful green shoots of spring and the rich foods and the wine symbolizing freedom," Levin said. "Having gone through the contrast between oppression and salvation, we rejoice in the redemption and in the destiny as a free nation."
The word Haggadah means "telling."
"It's important to tell the children this story," the rabbi said. "It's the freedom, the coming out of Egypt as slaves and coming to the Promised Land. Moses led the children of Israel to the Promised Land, and today we have a Holy Land. It's very important that the kids reiterate and learn the story and then tell it to their kids."