Chabad House hosts Seders for all members of the UMass community

By Lia Gips

Edsel Little/Flickr)
(Edsel Little/Flickr)

On Saturday, the second night of the Jewish holiday Passover, Chabad House held the second of two Seders open to the UMass community. Passover celebrates the flight of the Jews from their enslavement in Egypt 3,000 years ago.

Also known as Pesach, the holiday spans eight days and nights, during which observant Jews limit their diets to foods that their ancestors might have carried with them as they fled into the desert to escape slavery.

Friday’s expedited 90-minute Seder hosted approximately 30 student guests, as well as the Rabbis Adelman and Gottleib, and Adelman’s wife and children. Rabbi Chaim Adelman and his wife, Yocheved Adelman, are the co-coordinators of Chabad House.

Chabad is an orthodox movement within Judaism. Among other efforts, Chabad establishes outreach centers called Chabad Houses, the Amherst branch of which resides near the Southwest Residential Area.

As an orthodox organization, Passover at Chabad House means observance of the many principles of Passover, primarily a dietary restriction that Jews not consume the grains wheat, barley, rye, spelt or oats. These temporarily forbidden foods are called “chametz.”

The Talmud mandates that Jews avoid chametz as well as some other foods during the entire eight days of Passover.

“Passover is an opportunity to balance your ego by reflecting on past suffering,” Yocheved Adelman said. “There can be peer pressure to be who you’re not and Passover helps to find the real you.”

Like all Seders, Chabad’s told the story of the Jew’s enslavement 3,000 years ago by the pharaoh, king of Egypt, the 10 plagues that the Jewish people believe God helped Moses bring upon Egypt and the escape from Egypt to ultimately reach Mount Sinai and receive the Ten Commandments when Moses returned from his trip up.

Also like most Seders, a strong theme of the event was discussion of the continued relevance of the story of Passover, and its relationships to global oppression.

“Passover teaches us that without the guidance of God, we are susceptible to our emotions and fears when we make decisions,” Chaim Adelman said.

In Chaim Adelmen’s opinion, one of the main lessons of Passover is that the Talmud gives Jews a way to ethically structure their lives. In his view, the enslavement and killing of Jewish firstborns by the Egyptian pharaoh was in part because the pharaoh had no relationship with God to guide his actions.

“We talk about how even now, we are not free of our shackles, because we remain slaves to our own personal shortcomings,” Chaim Adelman said.

Preparation for the Saturday Seder began at sundown, when the Jewish calendar marks the passage between day and night. All Jewish holidays begin at sundown and end at the next sunset, 24 hours later.

Lia Gips can be reached at [email protected] and followed @lia_gips.