The Timeless Tradition of Judaism
The best way to understand the Jewish tradition is to dive fully into the primary sources that make up their religion. Over the course of storied Jewish history, texts have transformed along with understanding and law. As a religion primarily rooted in law and understanding of historical documents, knowing a Jew is as simple as picking up a document and reading their history, or so it would seem. The previously quoted text comes directly from the begging of the Maggid section of the Passover Seder, part of the Passover Haggadah. Within this text is a strong indication of what it means to be a Jew. Judaism is a timeless religion deeply rooted in tradition with strong foundations of community and scholastic interpretation.
Passover is an important time in the Jewish calendar year, and the reading of the Maggid from the Passover Haggadah is a required aspect of the Passover celebration. The first passage from the above quotation, “This is the bread… may be free!” (Alexander 75-76) clearly expresses community and a connection to history. These words, said aloud at the outset of the Passover celebration serve two purposes. First, they serve as the repetition of history. This statement is similar to that which would have been said by the Israelites upon their delivery out of the land of Egypt. “This is the bread of poverty which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt…” (Alexander 75). Now one would recognize that this isn’t read as the same physical bread, but spiritually speaking it is the representation of the gift of God to the first free Israelites. The connection of Jews to their long and documented history is immediately striking. Not only do they remember that their ancestors had eaten bread for millennia before them in similar Passover celebrations, they symbolically interpret their own bread as the gift of God passed down across time. Second, the Maggid welcomes all Jews to the Passover celebration. “Let all who are hungry come and eat; let all who are in need come to our Passover feast” (Alexander 75-76). What this does is solidify a strong community of generosity and charity. Jews recognize the similarities among them just as the Israelites did thousands of years before. The start of the Jewish community was the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, and the present day sense of community is deeply rooted in that historical event.
Immediately recognizable to scholars of Judaism is the similarity between the celebration of Passover and the weekly celebration of Shabbat. “…to those who observe Shabbat, it is a precious gift from G-d, a day of great joy eagerly awaited throughout the week…”. The festive atmosphere surrounding Shabbat and Passover characterize them as important, joyous days in very superficial surface characteristics. Additionally, the method of preparing the house for both celebrations is similar: “The process of cleaning the home of all chametz in preparation for Pesach (Passover) is...