Before starting this post I looked back, as I always do, to what I wrote last year. And I was shocked at how quickly I’ve forgotten Pesach in the shadow of corona. What a difference a year makes – in both directions. Last year we were mourning the loss of our family celebrations and Seder nights, huddled together in very small groups or in isolation. This year, certainly in Israel, we have almost forgotten what it was like as our hugely successful vaccination program has brought the numbers of corona cases right down.
This year, while we are still officially limited to “only” 20 people at a Seder, and shuls can only be filled up to 50% capacity, thank G-d we are not under curfew, and no one needs to hold a Seder on their own, we can host or be hosted by our parents and grandparents. I give daily thanks to Hashem that I live in this wonderful country, and that our Prime Minister (election results notwithstanding) succeeded in bringing us to this point through his vaccination program. I pray that all of our Jewish brethren across the globe will similarly be able to hold a family Seder and celebrate with at least some of their community.
Unlike previous years, this year we will be staying at home for the first 2 days, with our younger daughter and children in tow. It will be noisy and messy and fun and I am so looking forward!
Unusually, this year Pesach will start on Motzei Shabbat, Saturday night. This means that tomorrow, Shabbat, is erev Pesach so some of the rules and traditions have to be fulfilled ahead of time, and some tomorrow. Yes, it gets complicated but no one ever said it’s easy to be Jewish! And Seder night will begin on Saturday night. To understand more, have a look at the OU website which explains it all clearly.
For a good backgrounder on what is Pesach see the Chabad website.
Although not directly related to Pesach, an incredible new archaeological find seems timed to fit the oncoming festival, as the Israel 21C reports: Bible scroll fragments among dazzling artefacts found in Dead Sea Cave of Horror:
In an operation that would put Indiana Jones to shame, a huge anti-looting dig carried out in the Judaean Desert has unearthed historical finds of great significance, including fragments of ancient biblical scrolls, a 6,000-year-old skeleton of a young child, coins used by Jewish rebels and the oldest woven basket known to mankind.
The operation began in 2017, when the Israel Antiquities Authority, government agencies and volunteers set to survey 50 miles of caves in the Dead Sea area using drones, rappelling and mountain climbing techniques to access the almost unreachable caves.
Watch this video describing the dramatic archaeological rescue:
The climatic conditions in these caves enabled the preservation of ancient documents like the Dead Sea Scrolls that include the earliest known copies of the Biblical Books and as such have drawn the attention of looters out to make a fortune. The dig’s participants wanted to reach these sites before the looters did and were rewarded with a plethora of important finds from various periods.
Fragments of a Greek scroll of the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets, for example, were discovered in a cave where Jewish rebels hid almost 1,900 years ago. They are the first biblical scrolls to be discovered in the area in the past 60 years and were located in the Cave of Horror – a 260-foot drop from the cliff’s top – and reached only by rope.
Also dating back to the times of the Bar Kochba Revolt, archaeologists found in the digs a cache of rare coins bearing Jewish symbols such as a harp and a date palm, as well as arrowheads, woven fabric, sandals and even lice combs.
The Cave of Horror was also found to contain a partially mummified skeleton of a child wrapped in cloth that dates back some 6,000 years. Researchers believe that the child was probably a girl and was six to 12 years old at the time of her death.
Another find, this time revealed by volunteering youth, was a huge, intact woven basket with a lid that dates back some 10,500 years ago, providing information on storage in the times before the invention of pottery. The researchers believe it to be the oldest such basket to be found in the world and note that it was preserved so well due to arid conditions.
What an incredible operation! Kol hakavod to the Israel Antiquities Authority and their dedicated volunteers for pursuing the grave robbers and for their determination to reach the caves and rescue the findings in order to preserve our national and historical heritage.
And now for something completely different, to end this post on a lighter note, here is a great, clever and very funny Pesach video by the band Six13 – The Red Sea Shanty (via Shelley):
And if you want something slightly more traditional, here are the Maccabeats with the wonderful Seder songs, rearranged
I would like to wish all my readers, along with all of Klal Yisrael, a chag kasher vesame’ach – a happy and Kosher Passover. May we all merit to celebrate in rebuilt Jerusalem “speedily in our days” as we say in the Seder.
Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom and Chag Kasher Ve’Samea’ach!
שבת שלום וחג כשר ושמח