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Welcome to the David Victor Vector blog. This is blog that covers religious observances around the world international affairs and global business. This blog describes religious holidays for most major religions as well as raising issues dealing with globalization, international business ethics, cross-cultural business communication and political events affecting business in an integrated world economy. I look forward your discussion and commentary on these articles and subjects. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Passover

Introduction

At sunset on Monday April 10, 2017, the Jewish holiday of Passover (in Hebrew called Pesach) begins.  Passover is an 8-day holiday (ending at sunset April 18 in 2017) commemorating the exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt sometime in the 14th or 13th century BCE.

Unlike most Jewish holidays whic
h are largely celebrated in the synagogue of temple, the most significant rite of Passover – the Seder -- is specifically celebrated in the home.  Among Orthodox, Conservative and some Reform Jews, the Seder is conducted on two consecutive nights.  Among most Reform and Reconstructionist Jews, Pesach is celebrated only on the first night.  

The Seder


For Jews, the Seder is a central religious obligation. As a result Jewish employees and students may not attend work or class on the evenings of Seder, and should be accommodated.  Attendance of work or class before sunset may also be difficult for many Jewish employees and students who may originally be from outside the area, since they may need to celebrate the holiday at the home of parents or grandparents.   



The Seder is the central event of Passover.  The Seder follows a specifically delineated order, and indeed the word Seder in Hebrew simply means “order.”

The Seder centers around the reading of the story of the Jewish enslavement in Egypt, the encounter of Moses and Aaron with the Egyptian Pharaoh and the eventual freeing of the slaves and their exodus through the Sinai desert to the Holy Land.  The requirement to conduct the Seder is derived from the Hebrew Bible in Exodus 13:8 which gives the date for the Seder and in which God commands the Jews:

And you shall tell it to your children on that day, saying, 'Because of this God did for me when He took me out of Egypt.

The Seder has 15 specific steps from an introductory blessing of wine and the washing of hands to a final prayer ending the service with a prayer for the coming of the Messiah concluding with the phrase “Next year in Jerusalem” (L'shana habaah b'yerushalayim).

One of the items in the service best known to non-Jews is the asking of the “Four Questions” (the Mah Nishtanah) which begin with the question “Why is this night different from all other nights?” Because the youngest child must recite the questions (in Hebrew and often from memory), it is a point not only of special attention in the service but of frequent comedy routines among Jewish US and Canadian comedians.

The Goldberg Haggadah is
one of many different
Haggadah editions
The order of the service (including the telling of this story) is written in a special book used only for the Seder service called the Haggadah.  Central to service is the recognition that the Seder commemorates the founding of the Jews as a people and the reminder that Jews must be compassionate for the less fortunate since they had been slaves in the land of Egypt.  This often includes inviting the poor or those who have nowhere to go for Seder to one’s own home.

 In April 2008, US President Barack Obama
held the first ever White House Seder
While different traditions may vary from one group of Jews to another, these 15 steps are always included, and seem to have been followed since at least 160 BCE with the Haggadah of Rabbi Yehudah bar Ela’ay.  While this date is the one most provable other historians place the date of the first Haggadah much earlier at 280 BCE or 360 BCE.  The observance of Passover itself – if not necessarily in its current order of the Seder service, however, is believed to have been practiced since the exodus of Egypt.


  
The Seder Plate

The Seder involves the setting up of a special Seder plate with items symbolic of the Passover story.   The items include:        

  • Maror: bitter herbs (usually horseradish) symbolizing the bitterness of slavery
  • Karpas: any vegetable other than that used for the maror (usually parsley or celery) that is dipped in salt water to symbolize (among other things) the tears shed in slavery
  • Charoset or Charoses: a sweet, brown bumpy mixture (usually of apples, nuts, wine and cinnamon) that symbolizes the mortar (which it resembles) used by the slaves to build the storehouses of Egypt
  • Roasted egg:  a symbol of either (depending on different interpretations) Springtime or the sacrifice formerly conducted in the Temple of Jerusalem in the days before it was destroyed by the Romans. Historically, though, this symbol (along with the Christian Easter egg) has its likely roots in the ancient Persian Zoroastrian tradition of the Naw-Rúz egg (for more on that, please see my earlier post http://davidvictorvector.blogspot.com/2012/03/naw-ruz.html )
  • Lamb bone:  a symbol of either (again depending on different interpretations) the lamb’s blood with which the Jews marked the dwellings during the final plague on Egypt or symbolizing another Temple sacrifice

The Cups of Wine

The Four Cups

The Passover meal also involves blessings on four cups of wine.  The blessings represent specific promises of God to the Jews in the Hebrew Bible’s book of Exodus (6:6-7). For example, the first blessing relates to the passage:

Passover wine cup
I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you from under their bondage and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm and with great judgments: and I will take you to Me for a people and I will be to you a God.

Correspondingly, the first cup is called the cup of sanctification. The other three cups of wine correspond to different blessings. Thus, the second blessing is called the cup of judgment; the third, the cup of redemption; and the fourth, the cup of the kingdom.
Some Jews (and especially children) use grape juice and others very small cups to avoid the effects of four large cups of wine.

Sephardic and Ashkenazic Differences in Tradition

It should be noted that some differences occur among Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews on some points.  Among the Ashkenazic (Jews of East and Central European descent) and Sephardic (Jews descended from those fled from Spain and Portugal in the 1490’s when practicing Judaism became a capital crime; these Jews now  are largely of Latin American, North African, Arabian, Turkish, Greek or Dutch descent).

Ashkenazic Jews bless four cups of wine, Sephardic bless only the 1st and 3rd cups of wine. Additionally, the definition of what is and is not prohibited food diverges among Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews, notably over foods such as rice.

Elijah's and Miriam's Cup
 Cup for Elijah
Additionally, a fifth cup of wine is left on the table.  At a point of the service, the door is opened to allow Elijah the Prophet to come and join the meal. It is also customary to offer any outside who are in need to join the Seder at this time (since some Jewish traditions indicated that Elijah and the Messiah may well appear as beggars or of poor and humble background).The Prophet Elijah is supposed to come before the Messiah arrives. 

Many Reform and Conservative Jews have added a sixth cup for Miriam, the sister of Moses to maintain a gender-free association. 

In houses with young children, an adult often kicks a table leg to make the wine in the cups move as if Elijah and Miriam are drinking from the cup.



Matzo
Matzo

On Passover, Jews are forbidden from eating any leavened bread for the entire eight days. Instead, they eat unleavened bread – made of water and flour only – called matzo. Because Hebrew does not transliterate well into English, the spelling is also rendered Matzah, Matza, Matzoh, Mazzah, Massah, or Massa – they all mean the same thing.   In some traditions, the matzo is round. In others, it is made in squares.

To be unleavened, not only must the bread have no other ingredients (e.g., no yeast), but must be made in 18 minutes or less.  The purpose of the matzo is to symbolize the speed with which the Jews had to flee Egypt, without time to even bake bread. In preparation for Passover, Jews clean their house of any bread or leavened products (called chametz).  The prohibition on food includes items that may include leavening of any sort and so Jews usually buy only food that is marked as “Kosher for Passover.”  This process is often elaborate, with different traditions followed by different groups. 

Most Orthodox and Conservative Jews also use special Passover plates that are only used during these eight days each year. 

Since matzo is the central symbol of Passover, it also appears on the Seder table in a stack of three pieces of matzo.  These pieces are usually placed in a decorated cloth envelope or sleeve designed for the purpose.
Breaking matzo
to make the afikomen
Since the Seder service is specifically intended to relate the story of the Passover to one’s children and since the service often lasts until late at night, keeping the children’s attention is an important part of the service. This is attained by the "hiding of the afikomen."  The middle piece of the three pieces of matzo is broken in two.  The smaller piece is returned to between the other two pieces while the remaining piece is hidden somewhere in the house.  This piece is called the afikomen, which simply means dessert in Hebrew. 
The point of hiding the afikomen is to maintain the attention of the children, who after the meal get to search for the afikomen.  The child who finds it, earns a prize of some sort as well as praise and extra attention.  After the afikomen is found, everyone eats a piece of it, and then no one may eat anything else for the rest of the evening (aside from tea or coffee and from blessings on wine).

The History of Blood Libel Accusations

Many Conservative, Reconstructionist and Reform Jews invite non-Jews to their home. This custom derives not only out of community feeling but as an attempt to dispel anti-Semitic myths about Passover that have caused much bloodshed and persecution over the years, and unfortunately continue to be spread in the present day.

The most widespread of these myths is the accusation that Jews either eat children at the Seder or that they collect the blood of children to make matzo.  These, of course, are patently false, and go very much against the Jewish laws against murder (including that in the Ten Commandments), prohibition of human sacrifice, and traditions of blood-aversion (kosher meat is prepared especially to avoid contact with blood, for instance). 

Still, the blood libel has a long history.  Quite literally hundreds of mass attacks on Jews have taken place against Jews for such “crimes” not only throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance (it was, for example, the cause of the expulsion of the Jews from England from 1290 to 1655, and one of the excuses for the outlawing of Judaism in Spain in 1492), but sadly continues into modern times.

The Three Roman Catholic Former Blood Libel Saints

William of Norwich

The Martyrdom of William of Norwich
Nuremburg Chronicle, 1493
Three Roman Catholic martyrs were sainted because they supposedly were murdered by Jews who used their blood to make matzo. The first of these is Saint William of Norwich. William of Norwich who died in 1144 and is the first recorded source for the blood libel accusations. William was 12 years old when he was murdered, purportedly for the making of matzo. It is significant that while William was clearly murdered in the woods, when the townspeople brought the Jews to trial for murdering him, the local courts acquitted them of any wrongdoing for lack of proof. Also significantly, William of Norwich was never formally canonized.


Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln

Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln was the second Catholic saint who was claimed to have been martyred for the making of matzo. Not only has the Roman Catholic Church never formally canonized Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln, but has never assigned a feast day to him. In 1955, the Anglican Church officially renounced Little Saint Hugh, and placed a plaque in Lincoln Cathredral at the site of his former shrine denouncing the blood libel. The plaque reads:
Plaque denouncing the blood libel
of Little Saint Hugh,
Lincoln Cathedral, England 

Trumped up stories of "ritual murders" of Christian boys by Jewish communities were common throughout Europe during the Middle Ages and even much later. These fictions cost many innocent Jews their lives. Lincoln had its own legend and the alleged victim was buried in the Cathedral in the year 1255.
Such stories do not redound to the credit of Christendom, and so we pray:
                           Lord, forgive what we have been,
                           amend what we are are,                                     
                          and direct what we shall be.
   

Simon of Trent

The martyrdom  of Simon of Trent
Palazzo Salvatore, Trento, Italy
Simon of Trent was the next martyr supposedly killed for the making of matzo.  In 1475 in the city of Trento  
in Italy, the 2-year-old Simon was found murdered. The entire Jewish population of the city was arrested. After submitting to torture, 15 Jews admitted to murdering him for ritual purposes. All 15 were sentenced to be burned at the stake, although the Pope pardoned the six women among them. Of the nine men, one committed suicide and the other eight were burned at the stake.
It is important to note that Simon was again never officially canonized but did have a feast day (March 24).
In 1965, Simon was officially removed from the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints and in 2000, the Church removed him from the Roman Martryology and officially suppressed any remaining worship.


The Only Remaining Blood Libel Saint: Saint Gavriil of Belestok

Unlike the Roman Catholic Church which has denounced all three saints connected with supposed libel, the Russian Orthodox continues to venerate a supposed blood libel victim as a saint: Saint Gavriil of Belestok.
Indeed, following the independence of Belarus, the cult of Saint Gavriil has grown in importance, with accompanying anti-Semitism centered on the blood libel accusation.

Gavriil was supposedly poked and skewered over a course of nine days during the week of Passover in 1690 to obtain blood for ritual purposes. Slutko, a Jewish tax collector, was found guilty of the crime.  In 1820, the Russian Orthodox Church formally canonized Gavriil and made him patron saint of children.
Church of Gavriil of Belestok
Belestok, Belarus

Under Soviet rule, Gavriil's remains were moved to the Museum of Atheism. In 1992, his relics were moved back to his hometown of Belestok to the Church of Gavriil of Belestok. Today, the church and his remains have become a pilgrimage site and the focus of a cult promoting anti-Semitism. For example, in 1992 the official Orthodox Church publication Tsarkounae Slova issued a warning in an article entitled "Saint Gavriil" against cults practicing human sacrifice, listing Hasidic Jews as one of those cults. The link (in Belorussian) is at

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor has cited the activities of the cult of Saint Gavril each year since 2003 as anti-Semitic and encouraging violations of human rights.

Modern Blood Libel

The blood libel was widely spread in the 19th Century first by Tsarist Russia. The blood libel was then taken up in 20th Century by Nazi propagandists and their supporters.   

Burial of the dead
at the Kielce Massacre

One of the saddest of the 20th Century blood libels occurred in 1946 when a group of Holocaust survivors who had returned from the concentration camps to the village of Kielce, Poland only to be attacked by a crowd. Appallingly, the local Kielce police actually led the crowd in the massacre, claiming the returning Holocaust survivors had made matzo out of Christian children’s blood.  Of the roughly 200 Holocaust survivors who had come to Kielce, 40 were murdered and 80 were injured.


In the late 20th Century, the blood libel was primarily discredited except in the Arab-speaking world, most notably following the founding of the State of Israel in 1948. The blood libel has been and continues to be a common theme in Arabic language political cartoons as well as in official government accusations. 

Among the most notable of these official accusations came in 1991 when the Syrian delegation to the United Nations cited the blood libel as being a fact.  Sadly, the comment was made without opposition or criticism by any other delegation.




Blood Libel in the 21st Century

The matzo blood libel continues actively today. 

Recent Blood Libel Accusations in the Gaza Rallies, Summer 2014

The summer of 2014 saw attacks on Jewish shops, synagogues and cemeteries in of cities in Europe and the Americas including

  • Antwerp, Anderlecht, Ghent and Brussels in Belgium;  
  • Amsterdam and Amersfoot in the Netherlands; 
  • Berlin,  Kassel, Mainz, Nuremburg, and Wuppertal in Germany; 
  • Copenhagen in Denmark; 
  • Gothenburg, Jönköping and Malmo in Sweden; 
  • Trondheim in Norway;
  • Paris, Sarcelles, Sarre-Union and Toulouse in France; 
  • Larissa and Thessaloniki in Greece; 
  • Szikszo and Tatabanya in Hungary;
  • Istanbul in Turkey;
  • Kiev, Dnepropetrovsk, Nikolayev and Zaporozhye in Ukraine;
  • Rome in Italy 
  • London, Belfast, Manchester, Kingston in the United Kingdom  
  • Mexico City in Mexico
  • Buenos Aires, Basavilbaso, Mendoza and Santiago del Estero in Argentina
  • Santa Catarina in Brazil
  • Caracas in Venezuela
  • Calgary in Canada
  • Seattle in the United States

Blood Libel Poster at Berlin "Pro-Gaza" Rally
Beginning as pro-Gaza rallies (that took place in dozens of cities peacefully and without overt attacks as Jews), a substantial number of protesters turned to overt attacks on Jews.

Common among these were a banner of Israeli Prime Minister eating a child with blood dripping out of his mouth, a depiction of the blood libel. Some carried posters showing images of Jews eating children or wore t-shirts spattered with blood.  Others chanted blood libel chants such as "Bloodsuckers!" and "Child killers!" mixed in with non-blood-libel chants of "Death to the Jews" and "To the Gas Chambers" and other anti-Jewish slogans.


 Blood Libel Poster at Seattle "Pro-Gaza Rally 


Recent Official Government Stances Against Blood Libel Accusations

Russia: In January 2005, twenty members of the Russian Duma (the equivalent of its Parliament) formally lodged a complaint to the Prosecutor General’s office demanding the banning of all Jewish organizations based in part on practices that “extend even to ritual murder.” These Duma members eventually retracted their complaint following widespread condemnation. 

Ukraine:   Beginning in April 2005, one Ukraine’s leading Management Schools, the  Interregional Academy of Personnel Management (IAPM) began publishing a string of articles on the threat posed by “world Jewry” in its journal Personnel.  In December 2005, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko denounced the university. He resigned from the IAPM board, stating:  "The Head of State is worried that anti-Semitism spreads throughout Ukraine. He condemned the Interregional Academy of Personnel Management (IAPM) as an institution that systematically publishes anti-Semitic articles in its publication Personnel.“ Following  this, the IAPM published a blood libel article in Personnel.  In 2006, Ukraine removed the IAPM’s accreditation for its persistent anti-Semitic actions.   Link
 
Palestine: In 2014 Hamas Spokesman Osama Hamdan claimed in speeches that Jews used Christian children in making matzo. In an August 8, 2014 interview on CNN,  refused to refute his earlier claim that "Jews eat Christian blood" when asked directly -- twice -- by (Jewish) CNN journalist Wolf Blitzer. A link to the video clip is here: http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/08/05/hamas-spokesman-doubles-down-on-jews-eat-christian-blood-libel-when-confronted-by-wolff-blitzer-on-cnn-video/

On March 27, 2013, Nawaf al-Zaru published an article in the journal of the Palestinean aid organizationg Miftah criticizing US President Barack Obama for hosting a Passover Seder at the White House, citing “Does Obama in fact know the relationship, for example, between ‘Passover’ and ‘Christian blood’..?! Or ‘Passover’ and ‘Jewish blood rituals?!... Much of the chatter and gossip about historical Jewish blood rituals in Europe are real and not fake as they claim; the Jews used the blood of Christians in the Jewish Passover.” After initially refusing to apologize or withdraw the article, the organization expressed "sincere regret" that the article was "accidentally and incorrectly published."
Egypt formally censured
Ossama El-Baz following his
2003 blood libel series of articles

April 21, 2001 blood libel cartoon
published in Al Ahram,
one of Egypt's largest daily newsapers
Egypt: Egypt is another government that took a stand against the blood libel accusations came in 2003. The Egyptian government objected following a string articles and publications claiming the practice of blood libel in the use of Moslem children's blood to make matzo in Egypt. Ossama el-Baz, a minister in the Egyptian government, published a series of articles explaining the falsehood of the blood libel myths and called on Egyptians to stop what he called “myths” based "on the basis of the racist fallacies and myths that originated in Europe." 

Recent Official Government Acceptance or Support of Blood Libel Accusations

While in both Russia and Egypt, these most recent popular accusations of the matzo blood libel were condemned by their governments, this is sadly not always the case. 

Hungary:

In October 2013, Budapest premiered an opera entitled The Red Heifer composed by the Hungarian Ivan Fischer. The opera was based on the theme of an actual 1899 trial of a Jew who was convicted for supposedly murdering a Christian woman for the making of matzo. While the opera received widespread protests from demonstrators outside the theater, it was supported by many, and reflects the sentiments of the openly anti-Semitic platform of the Jobbik (currently Hungary's second largest political party). http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/10/blood-libel_anti-semitism_in_hungary_past_and_present.html

Syria: In 1983, Mustafa Tlass, the Syrian Defense Minister published a book entitled The Matzah of Zion. The book – now in its eighth printing was cited favorably by the Syrian delegation at the United Nations in 1991. In late 2003, the Syrian government produced a TV series called Ash-Shatat (the Diaspora) depicting Jews collecting blood for making matzo.  The TV show is currently still being aired on Al-Manar, the satellite station owned by Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon.  The same show was also broadcast in Jordan on its Al-Mamnou satellite network until its airing was dropped in 2005 when the government of Jordan responded to US complaints regarding its contents.
A scene from
Horseman Without A Horse

Egypt: In 2001, an Egyptian film company produced a movie based in part on Mustafa Tlass’ book called Horseman Without A Horse. This 30-part television series was produced by the Saudi Arabia-based company Arab Radio and Television. The series showed not only the blood libel but dramatization of the fabricated hoax called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in which Jews are shown to secretly plot the conquest of the world. Horseman Without A Horse was moderately popular.

Despite protests lodged with the Egypian government by both the United States and Israel, Egypt did nothing to stop the broadcast or to point out that the Protocols have long been discredited (before Hitler and even moreso after Hitler). The US and Israeli protests, however, may have contributed to Egypt's official objection to the 2003 blood libel articles mentioned above.

In May 2013, the Egyptian Salafist politician Khaled Zaafrani claimed in a national interview on al-Hafez TV that “it is well-known that during Passover they make matzos called the ‘Blood of Zion.’ They take a Christian child, slit his throat, and slaughter him…they never forgo this rite.” When asked if Jews "still do this," Zaafrani declared "absolutely." http://www.timesofisrael.com/egyptian-politician-revives-passover-blood-libel/#ixzz2qaJNvYSX

This year, on March 27, 2016, the Egyptian media outlet  Sout al-Omma published a "news" story about how 48 Israeli Arab children were stabbed with nails and their blood used in a "Zion Pie." The article was then posted on Facebook where it was translated into English, causing protests after Facebook allowed the post to stand as free speech, responding officially that "We reviewed the share you reported for displaying hate speech and found it doesn’t violate our Community Standards." 

Iran: In December 2005 in Iran, Dr. Hasan Hanizadeh was widely praised by government and religious leaders for his comments on state television when he stated, "Unfortunately, the West has forgotten two horrendous incidents, carried out by the Jews in 19th-century Europe - in Paris and London, to be precise. In 1883, about 150 French children were murdered in a horrible way in the suburbs of Paris, before the Jewish Passover holiday. Later research showed that the Jews had killed them and taken their blood. ... A similar incident took place in London, when many English children were killed by Jewish rabbis. ..." 

Dr. Hanizadeh works for the Tehran Times and (as the author of a book entitled The History of the Jews) is considered in Iran to be an authority on Jews and Judaism. 

Conclusion 

I apologize for ending this holiday summary with so somber a note, but given the situation, I felt it important to raise the issue.  That said, Passover is a joyous time of celebration. Happy Passover!
As always, if you would like to share your thoughts, please do share them with me.


Want to Learn More?

Jewish-Christian Relations Tripod, "Blood Libel -- A History of Groundless Anti-Semitic Fables," http://jcrelations.tripod.com/blood.html
Judaism 101, "Pesach: Passover": http://www.jewfaq.org/holidaya.htm

Ariela Pelaia, About.com, "Judaism":  http://judaism.about.com/od/holidays/a/Jewish-Holiday-Passover-Pesach.htm

Torah.org, "Passover": http://www.torah.org/learning/yomtov/pesach/#


Clip Art Sources:






2 comments:

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