„Our community is special because we actively strive to teach traditions”

Shlomo Köves, Chief Rabbi of the EMIH – The Association of Hungarian Jewish Communities, was interviewed by a reporter from the Jesuit magazine A Szív (The Heart). In the conversation, the importance of Pesach, its history and customs are discussed; it also revealed how Shlomo Köves became acquainted with the Chabad Lubavitch movement – reported zsido.com

– What exactly is the meaning of the Hebrew word Pesach?

– It means “to skip.” This refers to the hand of God skipping or passing over the houses that had the blood of the sacrificial lamb on their doorposts. In these homes, He did not strike down the firstborn.

The blood of the lamb saved the marked, and thus began the Exodus, that is, the deliverance from slavery, from their restraints.

Biblical and rabbinic Talmudic sources mention at least three names for this feast. The first is the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, or Passover, the second is the Festival of Freedom, and the third is the Festival of Spring.

– How do Jews celebrate Passover?

– The celebration is essentially defined by two traditions. One is the Seder celebration. On the first night of the feast, we gather to tell the story of deliverance from the Book of Exodus. In the meantime, we eat all kinds of symbolic foods related to the story. We eat matzah, or unleavened bread. Then horseradish, to remember the bitterness. We drink four glasses of wine, symbolizing freedom. We always spill a little of the wine when we recount the Ten Plagues because our joy at our freedom cannot be cloudless, for the destruction of our enemies must also pain us. Another defining tradition of Passover celebrations is the matzah itself, unleavened bread, or more specifically its connection with the Jewish Passover cycle.

In fact, the Bible says that it is forbidden to eat any leavened product during Passover. Not only is it forbidden to eat, but nothing leavened is allowed in the house.

Where does this come from? The Bible tells us that when the Jews came out of Egypt, in their great hurry, there was not enough time for the dough to rise, so they ate unleavened bread. The Torah tells you to eat only unleavened bread at this time, and not to have any leavened bread in your house. What counts as leavened? Any fermented food, including any product where risen dough has been put in the oven. Leavened bread is when water and flour have been together for more than 18 minutes before being put in the oven. This is a time of great clean-up before the feast.

That’s why Passover is a nightmare for Jewish housewives because everything is turned upside down so that there is not even a single crumb of leaven is anywhere.

The apartment is completely cleaned, the kitchen is dismantled and reassembled. At this time our kitchen is cleaned out. Again, being free of all leaven is symbolic of the need to cleanse ourselves from leaven, from arrogance, from conceit, to be humble, and this is the way to lead us to liberation, to the Exodus.

Read the full interview in A Szív Magazine.

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