MUNSTER - Tonight, just as they did Monday night, Jews will take their
seats at the Passover "seder" table, lean back in their chairs on soft pillows
and retell a story that has been handed down in this manner for more than
But this year Ernest and Ursula Fruehauf are doing things a little
differently. They will celebrate their seder with their children and
grandchildren under a tent, in the same way the Israelites probably celebrated
the first Passover after the Exodus.
They'll gather to share a meal and tell a story that begins "we were slaves
of Pharaoh in Egypt and if God had not brought our forefathers out, then we and
our children might still be slaves."
Jews today, who, unlike their enslaved forefathers have the luxury of
sitting on pillows, also use the pronoun "we" during the seder to identify with
"The tent represents the dwellings of the slaves and where the Israelites
lived for the next 40 years in the desert after escaping from Egypt," Fruehauf
said. "It is very likely they spent their first Passover in their tents."
"We are doing it to impress the children, really. Since we are supposed to
celebrate Passover in a way to indicate we ourselves were slaves and then
became free, it's a good idea to use as many symbols as possible to show that
idea - especially for children," Fruehauf said.
His point underscores the reason why a holiday like Passover continues to
exist century after century, with each generation finding a relevancy.
"For Jews today, Passover becomes very relevant. The holiday has universal
significance. Continuously, there are always people who are subjected to higher
powers who enslave, oppress and cause them to suffer," said Rabbi Raphael
Ostrovsky of Congregation Beth Israel in Hammond.
"The primary focus of the holiday is that we became free," he added. "For
any people that are not totally free, then this holiday pertains to them.
"It's the most celebrated of Jewish holidays because of the universal goal
of freedom," Fruehauf said. "It causes us to remember those who live under
oppression. We remember the Exodus and we do something for the less fortunate
by using our resources and our talents."
He cited as an example Israel's efforts on behalf of Ethiopian Jews,
Soviet Jews as well as Jews and Moslems in Bosnia. Israel has helped many
people leave those countries and gain freedom.
The entire holiday, including the advance preparation, requires an enormous
commitment, Ostrovsky said. Prior to the first seder, some families will take
great pains to make their home "kosher for Passover."
All remnants of "hametz" or leavened products are thoroughly cleaned from
the house. In addition, dishes and utensils used throughout the year are put in
storage and the Passover dishes and utensils are brought out.
"It's a lot of work," Ostrovsky said. "But families that do not
observe 'Kashrut,' (dietary laws) the rest of the year, find Passover such a
meaningful holiday that they take on the ritual for the holiday."