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Happy Passover 15 Nissan 5771 !
Okay, it's Passover / Pesach, the celebration of the Exodus of the Jews from the land of their enslavement, Egypt.
The end of the story -- escape from slavery -- makes Passover the happiest of Jewish holy days, and one with meaning and hope not just for Jews, but for all human beings enduring enslavement, oppression, or any form of inequality or second-class citizenship.
But what leads up to the happy ending is pretty grim. Pharaoh refused to grant the Jews' petition to let them leave Egypt, and for his stubborn recalcitrance, God visited ten ghastly plagues, each one more hideous than the plague before, on Egypt. Above, some renditions of the plagues by Tissot and Doré.
Some believe Passover is the oldest continuously celebrated religious holiday on Earth. It's celebrated not in the synagogue, but with a festive and often raucous family supper -- with quite a bit of wine -- in the home. The presence of children is essential, because Passover teaches each new generation the story of the liberation from slavery.
There are several degrees of Jewish observance, from the strict ultra-Orthodox, to the Conservative, to Reform, and most recently to the Reconstructionist movement. The Reconstructionist and Reform have ordained women rabbis for a few decades. Not so the Conservative movement, and absolutely not the Orthodox.
In the center of the Passover table is a traditional seder (meaning "order," referring to the order of the supper and religious service) plate with various foods, each symbolising an aspect of the Passover story.
A few years ago I attended a Passover seder, and noticed something odd about its seder plate -- an orange, and I was pretty darned sure I'd never seen an orange on the seder plate before.
A young woman guest explained. A prestigious American Conservative rabbi was asked when the Conservatives would ordain a woman rabbi, and he replied, "A woman rabbi would be like an orange on the seder plate."
And from that year on, oranges began appearing on the symbolic seder plates.
Even the most ancient celebrations move forward, evolve, progress into the future. Every year, Passover liberates and brings equality to more human beings.