1. Calendrical formulations
The Jewish calendar is so formulated that the first day of Passover never falls on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday.

2. Moses, leading man

Moses, the leading and inspiring character in the drama of Passover and the greatest prophet of Israel, is mentioned only once, and only incidentally in a quoted verse, in the entire haggadah. To dramatize the spiritual message of the power of God in the redemption from Egyptian bondage and to avoid hero-worship of Moses, he who performed the crucial role in the drama is virtually an "extra" in the recorded script. The person was always considered a "messenger of the Lord," a tool in His hands to do His will.

3. Paschal sacrifice

During the first century of the Common Era, Theudas — the most prominent member of the Jewish community of Rome — well-intentioned though apparently void of Jewish learning, introduced the sacrificing of a lamb on the eve of Passover to fulfill biblical law. This led the rabbinical authorities in Palestine to rebuke him, for this practice was permitted only in the Temple of Jerusalem.[1]

In the nineteenth century both Ashkenazi and Sephardi rabbis were concerned with the possibility of reintroducing the Passover offering in Jerusalem. While the matter was seriously discussed in Responsa, no practical results were achieved.[2]

4. Afikoman
The afikoman is the piece of the middle of the three matzot on the Seder table which is eaten at the conclusion of the meal. The Mishnah states that "After the paschal lamb (or Passover meal) one should partake in afikoman." Various explanations have been given for this directive. Most commonly, afikoman is said to be the Greek epikomios, meaning festival procession. The Talmud defines it as "going from one group to another," [3] as was the custom after a meal, for the purpose of revelry, which the rabbis frowned upon. It is also defined as dessert with dinner music.

Another explanation for afikoman is found in the Yemenite haggadah. There an acrostic interpretation is given as follows:

Things and

All of the above and even other foods are forbidden to be tasted after eating the afikoman.

5. Where is Elijah?
While the cup of Elijah occupies a place of honor on the Seder table, and during the service the door is opened to welcome the prophet, the harbinger of salvation and consolation, his name appears in the text of the haggadah only in the Grace after Meals where it is mentioned throughout the year.[4]

6. Local customs
For many centuries, Jews lived in the Ksurs (forts) of the Sahara desert. One group, known as the "heretics of Wargla," celebrated Passover by leaving their abodes and marching into the desert, as the children of Israel did under the leadership of Moses.[5]

Ancestors of the present Bene Israel of India observed Anasi Dhakacha San, "the holiday of the closing of the Anas" (an earthen jar containing sour liquid used as a sauce), for eight days from the fourteenth of Nisan. During this period they abstained from the use of leaven, although they had forgotten the origin of the festival.[6]

In some Jewish communities of Hungary, the seventh day of Passover was observed with appropriate dramatization to mark the miraculous dividing of the Red Sea. The Hasidim would assemble in a private home and dine together. After midnight they would take a pitcher of water and dance with it until the water spilled on the floor, or a pan of water would be placed on the floor and the Hasidim would jump over it and dance around it singing, "Then sang Moses."[7]

Some Jews gave expression to their piety and love of performing a mitzvah by kissing the matzot and bitter herbs on the first night of Passover.[8]

7. Wine substitute
In the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research there is a manuscript announcement, purported to have been issued in Vilna during World War I, which states: "On account of the hard times and the great dearth in which we are living, the rabbis have found it necessary to announce that the poor people who do not have the means to buy wine for the Four Cups can, according to the law, fulfill the duty of the Four Cups with sweet tea."[9]

footnotes [1] BT, Berakhot 19a; Roth, Ceil, The History of the Jews of Italy, JPS 1946, p. 16. [back]
[2] Zimmels, H.J., Ashkenazim and Sephardim, Oxford University Press, London, 1958, p. 71. [back]
[3] BT, Pesahim 119b. [back]
[4] Abida, Yehudah, Koso shel Eliyahu ha-Navi, Jewish Agency, Jerusalem, 5718. [back]
[5] Slouschz, Nahum, Travels in North Africa, JPS, 1927, pp. 345-346. [back]
[6]Kehimkar, Haeem Samuel, The History of the Bene Israel of India, Tel Aviv, 1937, pp. 16-22. [back]
[7] Scheiber, Alexander, "Ikvot Kramatizatzia be-Tekese ha-Pesah be-Hungaria," Yeda-Am, no. 7-8 (May 1951), p. 6. [back]
[8] Zimmels, p. 261. [back]
[9] National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C. [back]

From The Passover Anthology, ed. Philip Goodman. Jewish Publication Society, 1993.

sources Illustration details 1-3 from the earliest illustrated haggadah, place and date unknown (probably 15th-16th cent.). Illustration detail #4 from Venice Haggadah, 1629 edition. In: Haggadah and History: A Panorama in Facsimile of Five Centuries of the Printed Haggadah, ed. Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi. Jewish Publication Society, 1975, 1976, 1977.

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