MAMARONECK, N.Y. Gabriel Miller, 8, learned why he eats matzah and other unleavened food during Passover in classes at the Westchester Jewish Center's Religious School.
The center has held mock seders, a ritual feast marking the beginning of Passover, for its Nursery School, Religious School and Hebrew High School students. Seders are held Friday and Saturday night, said Rabbi Moishe Steigmann.
"The seder nights are some of the most celebrated rituals in all of Judaism," Steigmann said. "It really has become an incredible time for families to celebrate this ritual."
At the mock seder, Miller learned that matzah, a quickly cooked bread that doesn't rise as dough, symbolizes the haste with which the Israelites had to leave Egypt.
Passover celebrates the Israelites' exodus from Egypt, a story passed down among family and friends by reading from the Haggadah. The holiday is centered on the theme of redemption. God not only freed the Israelites from their bondage, but also brought them to Mount Sinai to receive the gift of the Torah, Steigmann said.
"The unique symbolism of Passover is that we re-enact it," Steigmann said. "We put ourselves in the position of a slave or someone who has been enslaved, so we can actually experience for ourselves the transition from degradation to redemption at the hands of a merciful and compassionate God."
During Passover, the list food you cannot eat is extensive. But something you do eat is maror, a bitter herb that symbolizes the bitterness of slavery. Jews also dip green vegetables in saltwater, which represents the tears shed by the Israelites during their enslavement.
"Because we put ourselves in the shoes of the Israelite slaves who were redeemed, we can hopefully experience for ourselves what it means to be redeemed by the hands of God," Steigmann said.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.