Pesach – 29

In this unit we will trace Pesach from its first celebration, by Joshua and the people of Israel immediately upon entering Eretz Yisrael, to its transformation in modern times by the pioneers of the kibbutzim in Israel.

From Joshua’s time onwards, while the tabernacle and then the Temples existed in Israel, Pesach was celebrated by the sacrifice of the Paschal lamb, to commemorate the meal eaten by the children of Israel on their last night in Egypt. When the Second Temple was destroyed, Pesach (along with the other festivals, and indeed the whole of Judaism) was transformed by the sages into something completely different – a family celebration, comprising a festive meal and learned discussions on the topics of the day (the proportions between the two differ from family to family…). The Haggadah, the text that accompanies the seder, began to take shape during that period, but continued to develop throughout the ages. The pioneers of the kibbutzim, trying to design a celebration which would express their commitment to Zionism, socialism and communal life, transformed the Haggadah in new and interesting ways. We will examine a large collection of excerpts from different kibbutz Haggadot to see how the values of the members shaped the texts they used.

Pesach is the holiday that celebrates our deliverance from slavery in Egypt. It is strange that the culmination, as it were, of that event, namely the entry into Eretz Yisrael, is not celebrated – neither on Pesach nor on any other traditional holiday. As we shall see, the editors of the kibbutz Haggadot tried to remedy this omission by transforming Pesach into a festival which celebrates their modern-day exodus and return to the land.

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