Passover began at sundown today, commemorating the exodus of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt.
The holiday also is meant to liberate its followers from their inner servitude, meaning those habits, fears and insecurities that restrict them from acting with morality, goodness and kindness. In fact the Hebrew word for Egypt (mitz-rayim) also means limitation and constraint. Thus, leaving Egypt would be translated into English as "leaving our limitations and constraints."
A time of great joy and unity, Passover is also when families and friends make a point of sitting down together for traditional Passover dinners, known as seders, and celebrate this festival of freedom. Among the servings is matzah, the bread that the Jewish people ate on their journey to freedom.
This year, Pleasanton Rabbi Raleigh Resnick and his wife will host about 200 at their Passover seders, and they've ordered 100 pounds of hand-made matzah from Israel to give out as gifts to others for them to enjoy at their seders. Matzah is made of only flour and water. Shaped like a cracker, "its simplicity is meant to instill humility within us and help us push aside our bloated and selfish egos," Resnick says. In fact, for the duration of the eight-day holiday, Jewish people refrain from eating any leavened products, such as store-bought breads, cakes, cookies and pastas.
With 26 churches and Jewish congregations in Pleasanton, and with thousands who live here also attending religious services in other Tri-Valley cities, this week, which includes Easter Sunday on March 31, is a time of joy for many people and on many levels.
For Christians, Palm Sunday was the beginning of Holy Week. Christian churches distributed palms to commemorate Jesus Christ's entrance into Jerusalem when palm branches were placed in his path, before his arrest and crucifixion on Good Friday, the day on which Christians commemorate his death on the cross. Easter celebrates his resurrection and is the second most important date on the Christian calendar, Christmas being the first.
Also among the special observances in the coming week will be "The Lamb of God" musical presentations being jointly held in the Bay Area by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the Roman Catholic Church. This is an inspiring Easter oratorio featuring the Mormon's Temple Hill Symphony Orchestra, choir and soloists, written by Rob Gardner and directed by Alan Chipman.
Presentations will be given next weekend in the auditorium at Temple Hill in Oakland, and on April 14 at the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco. Tickets are needed for any of these events, but they're free and can be obtained at www.templehillevents.com.