ANDOVER — At sundown tonight, Jews all over begin to celebrate Passover with a traditional Seder meal.
The eight-day holiday also known as the “Feast of Unleaven Bread” commemorates the exodus from slavery in Egypt.
During Passover, Jews do not eat any product containing leavened flour to remember the time when their ancestors left Egypt in such a hurry that their bread did not have time to rise.
The name of the holiday also refers to God “passing over” Jewish’ homes during the final of the Ten Plagues of Egypt.
“The Passover Seder is the classic Jewish experience,” said Rabbi Robert S. Goldstein, spiritual leader of Temple Emanuel in Andover.
Goldstein said the meal starts with the youngest participant asking four questions. These questions are answered as the leader reads through the Haggadah, a book that retells the Exodus story and explains the symbols and customs.
To engage children in the Seder, there are songs and food during the ritual.
“The Seder is not a Seder without children’s participation,” Goldstein said.
Rabbi Asher Bronstein, spiritual leader of Chabad of Merrimack Valley in Andover, agreed.
“The Torah asks that the children have an active role in the Seder,” Bronstein said. “If they take an active role as children, they will stay involved.”
The Seder meal features symbolic foods — roasted shank bone representing the sacrificial lamb; bitter herbs or “maror” — usually horseradish, romaine lettuce or both — symbolizing the bitterness of slaves’ lives; Haroset — a mixture of fruit, nuts and wine representing mortar the Israelites used when making bricks for the Pharaoh’s buildings and vegetables called karpas — such as celery or parsley — dipped in saltwater to symbolize the tears shed by the slaves.
Bronstein said the items on the Seder plate are more than symbolic.
“Tears are a significant concept of something you care about. If you have no tears, you have no sensitivity,” Bronstein said.