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Passover: A celebration of freedom, history began sundown Monday

Eight-day observance an opportunity to reflect, appreciate Jewish ancestry's sacrifice

Posted: March 29, 2010 12:01 p.m.
Updated: March 29, 2010 1:28 p.m.
For eight days, Rabbi Mark Blazer will limit his vegetarian palate to eggs, cheese, vegetables and an occasional piece of Matzo.

"I always lose some weight during Passover," Blazer said.

But the dietary restriction means much more than shedding a few pounds; it will allow Blazer to reflect on freedom.

"I think it gives me a greater appreciation for things we do have," Blazer said. "Changing our dietary habits gives us a chance to think about things and gives us a chance to appreciate things."

The eight-day observance of Passover begins Monday at sundown and is a time for Jews to join in the 3,300 year-old ancestral celebration of Jewish redemption from slavery while in the land of Egypt.

The celebration is generally known for community Seders and the fact that Jews around the world abstain from eating leavened products, substituting Matzo for food like bread and just about anything with corn syrup, Blazer said.

"Giving up bread products and changing our dietary habits for eight days, gives us a chance to really reflect on (Passover) for more than just a few minutes or hours," he said. On Monday, both houses of the California Legislature proclaimed the period of March 26 to April 2 as a state-wide Passover Education Week.

Rabbis from around the state were recognized on the Senate and Assembly Floors, according to a news release from Chabad of Sacramento.

Blazer said that Passover's reminder of liberation is an important message not only for Californians but for all people across the United States.

"As Americans, we often times take for granted liberty and freedom," Blazer said. "It's a universal right. That's the great message of Passover - it transcends nations, ethnicity, religion or race."

The historical event marking the Israelites freedom from slavery speaks to the whole world, said Rabbi Jay Levy, of Or Emet - A Congregation for Jewish Living.

"Passover certainly celebrates the exodus of the Israelites, our Jewish ancestors, from Egypt, but I think it speaks more to universal ideal that all people have the God-given right to be free," Levy said.

Congregations around the Santa Clarita Valley will host community Seders, a ceremonial dinner held on the first and second nights of Passover. Seders include the reading of the Haggadah, a text which contains the liturgy for the service, and the eating of symbolic foods.

Inviting others, Jewish or not, into their homes or congregations is a significant tradition of Passover for Jews.

"As a kid growing up, we'd always bring in people who had not celebrated Passover before, or who hadn't celebrated Passover in a long time," Blazer said. "All those kind of elements of the holiday really remind us of the message of sharing food and sharing the message of Passover."

This year, Temple Beth Ami and other local synagogues have recognized that not all have the freedom to eat when or whatever they want.

"A big thing synagogues are pushing is dealing with the problem of hunger and the fact that a lot of people are not eating as frequently because of the economy," Blazer said.

Temple Beth Ami collected food for the Santa Clarita Valley Food Pantry and will next week distribute several car loads of the donations to the pantry's location in Newhall.

Or Emet collects food year-round for the pantry but especially so during the time of Passover, Levy said.

"In the Haggadah, the book read at Seder, it says, 'All who are hungry come and be fed,'" he said. "We take that literally and feed those in need."


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