Mention being Jewish and people will often respond with a statement about food--one of the core components of our Jewish peoplehood. I could write a list of these foods, but you know best the favorites you shared with your family; the amazing dishes your grandmother cooked. Reflecting on these foods should create a deep visceral reaction: You should be drooling right now. Food definitely plays a crucial role in our daily lives, but it is even more significant with each festival. During Pesah food is of the utmost significance.
Another name for Pesah is ‘Hag HaMatzot,' ‘The Festival of Matza.' No other Jewish holiday is named for food. If you think about it, Passover really generates more conversations about food than any other Jewish festival, ranging from shopping to menu, from digesting to reflecting.
Since food is always a major factor in our Jewish lives, how did Passover become the food holiday? I mentioned Hag HaMatzot, but the name most often used, Pesah, also refers to food. The night before the exodus from Egypt, each family took a lamb, slaughtered it, and placed its blood on the doorposts. Hashem then ‘passed over’ these homes, giving the festival the name ‘Passover’. However, Pesah refers to much more than the blood on the doorposts. The Torah is very specific with many details on the paschal lamb, the Korban Pesah(Exodus 12:3-4,8):
3]Speak to the entire community of Israel, saying, "On the tenth of this month, let each one take a lamb for each parental home, a lamb for each household.
4] But if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor who is nearest to his house shall take [one] according to the number of people, each one according to one's ability to eat, shall you be counted for the lamb.
8] And on this night, they shall eat the flesh, roasted over the fire, and matzah; with bitter herbs they shall eat it.
Let’s summarize these verses. The whole community takes part. Preparations must begin in advance. Sometimes it will be one family, intergenerational. Sometimes neighbors and friends should join you. Enjoy the food! (The last passage sounds to me like a good shwarma in a laffa wrap.) This is how the Jewish people were commanded to observe the first Pesah. That is the Korban Pesah. Does the blood on the doorpost play an active role in our observance of this yearly festival? No, it was significant at the time, but not recreated. We don’t bring the Pesah sacrifice anymore because we don’t have the Temple. But there are elements around it that are core to the celebration of the festival. It is everyone’s Pesah! It is time to start getting ready! Invite your family to join you! If you have space, invite friends and neighbors! Enjoy the food! The formula outlined in the Torah is simple. Connect with community, family, friends, and food, as part of our connection to Hashem. We might already do this occasionally, or maybe weekly, with our Shabbat celebrations, but Pesah is the real time to ensure all the factors are there to fulfill our Jewish destiny! Mesas de alegria!