Apr 182011
 
Authors: Jesse Benn

The Jewish Festival of Pesach (Passover) may commemorate the literal liberation of the Israelites from Egypt thousands of years ago, but the message of Passover remains as relevant as ever by delivering a message of self-liberation.

About 230 people gathered in the North Ballroom of the Lory Student Center on Monday night for a traditional Seder dinner led by Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelick of Chabad, an orthodox Jewish synagogue.

As the room started to fill, Gorelick welcomed the company.

“We’ll squeeze everybody in,” he said. “There is no such thing as a Pesach dinner without having people over to share it with.”

Passover is one of a few Jewish holidays generally celebrated at home, rather than at synagogues, and the importance of sharing it with family and friends was obvious among Monday night’s attendees.

“It’s all about getting together with all my Jewish friends,” said Tori Newman, a junior food science and nutrition major.

For Judy Lauwereins, a community member who was in attendance with her daughter, CSU student Ashley Lauwereins, Passover is her most favorite of holidays. This is because of the symbolism and tradition behind the celebrations and because it’s an opportunity for the whole family to get together.

Symbolism runs throughout Passover but, according to Gorelick, a big part of the holiday is freeing oneself from the “psychological shackles of life.”

“We have ups and downs, but we should always try to angle upward,” Gorelick said. “Once a year, Jews celebrate eight days of personal freedom in 15 steps, and this tradition started way before all the self-help books in Barnes and Noble.”

Seder literally means order, and Seder dinners throughout the world follow the same order and traditions. Each part of the meal is symbolic for the struggles and triumphs of the Jewish people, from the dipping of an onion in saltwater to symbolize the tears of the ancient Jews, to only eating matzo bread that is unleavened –– because the Israelites didn’t have time to let their bread rise as they fled Ancient Egypt.

Gorelick even took the symbolism of the matzo a step further.

“Matzo is plain, it is the bread of humility,” Gorelick said. “Arrogance is puffed up: This Passover try to reduce your ego; keep it simple. It’s about finding the child within and holding on to that innocence, remembering when everything was golden.”

The dinner is also split up by four glasses of wine, and as the wine is drank, tradition dictates that people lean back and to the left.

“We recline when we drink because that’s what the kings did,” Ashley Lauwereins said. “We had nothing, and now we are equal.”

Michael Lichtback, the social chair of Chabad, felt the message of Passover is just as relevant today as it’s ever been.

“It’s about freeing yourself from your self-imposed shackles,” Lichtback said.

Passover is the most celebrated holiday for Jews worldwide, Gorelick said, for both religious and secular Jews.

“There’s something magical about it,” Gorelick said. “At the end of the 15 steps you will feel liberated – especially after you go to the bathroom.”

_Staff writer Jesse Benn can be reached at news@collegian.com . _

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