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Alte Synagoge in Baden-Baden, Architekt: Ludwig Levy, 1899 erbaut, 1938 zerstört



The first of the three pilgrimage festivals (in tandem with Shavuot and Sukkot) takes place in the Jewish spring month of Nisan. This happens at the time of the first barley harvest in Israel. The significance of this great festival lies in its commemoration of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, by which they enter history as a people.

 It is reported in the Bible (the first and second book of Moses) that the Israelites migrated to Egypt during a mass famine. At first, they fared relatively well. But then, they were increasingly oppressed by order of the Egyptian ruler, the Pharaoh, and had to assume difficult forced labor. Subsequently, Moses – by the command of God - became their leader. Under God`s protection, and together with his brothers in faith, he waged a dramatic exodus from Egypt through the Red Sea (splitting of the Red Sea) to Canaan in present-day Israel. The migration through the desert took 40 years.

 The name “Pesach” means “to pass over”, “to spare”. It reminds us that in the last of the Ten Plagues, God spared the Israelites by putting to death all the firstborn children of the Egyptians so that the Israelites could escape.

During the eight-day Pesach celebration, only unleavened bread (matzo) is consumed to commemorate the fact that the sudden departure from Egypt did not allow for the dough to ferment and prove prior to baking. Matzo is thin, crispy flatbread. At Pessach, no bread is allowed in the kitchen or the entire apartment, and even all bread crumbs are eliminated. Every corner is deep-cleaned like during spring cleaning. The focus on the first feast day after evening prayers is an abundant dinner within the family circle. This dinner is called “Seder”, which corresponds to the Hebrew word for “order”. Certain dishes, which bear a symbolic meaning, are eaten together after stories about the Exodus from Egypt and after some passages from Pesach-Haggada (i.e. Pesach stories) – related to special dishes – are read and explained. In addition, four cups of wine are drunk at certain intervals of the meal. They symbolize the four promises of God. God wants for the children of Israel: 1.) an exodus out of Egypt, 2.) salvation, 3.) deliverance, and 4.) acceptance.

The idea of liberation and the glorification of God are central to the Sedar meal. In the second part of the long evening, songs are first sung together. On the last day of the holiday, a celebration for the souls in the synagogue takes place in remembrance of the deaths. The subsequent period – the seven weeks until Shavuot – evolved over time to a period of mouming.