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Passover: 'A time for family renewal'

It is so wonderful that Passover is finally here since it is known as Chag HaAviv, the spring holiday. After a long winter it is great to be thinking that we are on the way to the blooming of flowers, the longer days, and the warmer weather. We recall the passing of seasons, the need to refresh ourselves and to recommit to that which is important.

At the same time, this holiday is known as Z'man Cheruteinu, the season of our freedom, as we recall when the Jews were freed from Egyptian bondage several millennia ago.

The holiday of Passover has many themes that were recounted over the past two evenings at Jewish homes that reflect the cycle of the seasons, the passing of years, as well as the celebration of freedom and the challenge to ensure that others are free as well.

The symbols on the seder plate are there to encourage all participants (not just children) to ask questions about the holiday observances, the idea of a Jewish communal history and to inspired memories for the future.

Passover, although technically starting on Monday night, takes weeks to prepare for. In fact, many Jews rid their homes of Chametz, or items that contain leaven, to recall the haste with which the Hebrews fled Egypt, not having enough time for the dough to rise. Chametz, in a metaphoric sense, can be seen as the "stuff" in our lives that we need to get rid of-the things that are weighing us down. Rabbi Brad Artson, Judaism writes, "Once a year, for slightly more than a week we elevate our homes to reflect the same level of purity and holiness that characterized the Temple in Jerusalem . . . Each year our table becomes an altar and our homes become centers of sanctity where God's presence can dwell. By removing chametz from our homes we restore the center - our homes - to that which is central - our heritage, our people and our God."

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