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Passover Celebrated in Queens

Millennial Old Tradition Continues at Sunnyside Synagogue

April 22, 2016 / Sunnyside Neighborhood / Holidays & Holy Days in Queens / Queens Buzz.

On Friday morning, the first day of Passover, I visited the The Young Israel of Sunnyside Synagogue, located along 43rd Avenue at 46th Street. There I met Stephen Weiner, a former president and longtime member, with whom I spent some time reviewing the importance and significance of the Passover tradition in Jewish culture.

Passover Commemorates Jewish Flight From Slavery in Egypt 3,500 Years Ago

Passover commemorates the Jewish exodus from Egypt about 3,500 years ago. The exodus was easily one of the most defining chapters in the Hebrew tradition, as it marks the Jews flight to freedom, which ended with them settling at the base of Mount Sinai after traveling 44 days through the desert. We’ll return to the Jews settling at the base of Mount Sinai later in this report, as that happened 44 days after the period of the Jews escape from Egypt which is remembered in the Passover celebration.

Young Israel of Sunnyside – An Orthodox Synagogue

Stephen told me that the Young Israel of Sunnyside Synagogue was an Orthodox Synagogue. Generally speaking orthodox branches of any religion hold more firmly to time tested traditions, while reform movements generally take some liberties in modifying some of the religious practices, ostensibly to modernize them. The Christian religion has an Orthodox branch, a Roman Catholic branch and a Protestant branch. The relationship of the Protestant branch of Christianity vis a vis Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians is similar to the relationship of Reform Jews are to Orthodox Judaism.

Origins of the Jewish Cultural Narrative About 4,000 Years Ago

The Jewish tribes began with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jacob was the father of Joseph, who as the story goes, was left for dead by his brothers in a well. He was saved and rose to become something like the Prime Minister of Egypt.

Following his death, the reigning Pharaoh became concerned that the Jews would eventually take over the kingdom, or side with the Egyptians’ enemies to overthrow them. So the Pharaoh made slaves of the Jews and eventually decided to start drowning the first-born males in the Nile River. Moses, as the story goes, was saved by being placed in a basket and floated down the Nile, where he was saved by the Pharaoh’s daughter.

Passover Celebrated in Queens

Millennial Old Tradition Continues at Sunnyside Synagogue

April 22, 2016 / Sunnyside Neighborhood / Holidays & Holy Days in Queens / Queens Buzz. Continued.

Passover Starts the Morning After the Tenth Plague

Moses [originally Moshe] grew up and became a rebellion leader, demanding that the Pharaoh, “let my people go” from slavery. The bitter herb served during the Seder reminds Jews of the bitterness of slavery. And it is here that Passover begins.

Because the Pharaoh didn’t free the Jews, ten plagues descended upon the Egyptian people. The first plague was that the waters of the Nile turned to blood and the water was unfit to drink and dead fish appeared for a week. The second plague resulted in frogs appearing in households. Then there was a bug infestation, which was followed by hordes of wild animals roaming and destroying things. The fifth plague was a pestilence that killed domestic animals. Then there was something like an epidemic of boils on people, followed by a hailstorm and a locust infestation. And in the ninth plague the sun turned to darkness.

The tenth and last plague was that the first-born males of all houses, except those that had lamb’s blood on their lampposts, would die. According to legend, this is exactly what happened.

Passover Ends After Moses Crosses the Red Sea into Safety

So the next morning the Pharaoh relented and told Moses the Jews were free to go. The Jews wasted no time – didn’t even wait for their bread to rise [hence the significance of matzo at the Seder on Passover] – and they fled east toward the Red Sea. It was seven days later that they arrived at the Red Sea, where the waters parted, and they crossed to safety followed by the Egyptian army, which was swallowed by the sea. And this is where Passover ends.

The four small cups of wine are intended to be four toasts to the redemption of the Jews by G_d. The first toast is toward the Jews deliverance from harsh labor. The second is the Jews deliverance from slavery in Egypt. The third is the saving of the Jews by parting the Red Sea, thus stopping their recapture by the Egyptians. And the fourth is the creation of the Jewish nation at the foot of Mount Sinai, where the Jews arrived after 44 days in the desert.

At Mount Sinai, Moses ascended the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments, which in some measure has become the religious / ethical predecessor or behavioral core for the legal systems in western civilization. Happy Passover.

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