Judaica DH at the Penn Libraries Blog //DataDeepDive: Passover
Blog //DataDeepDive: Passover

In this series, we take a deep dive into the Talk boards tags to look at how volunteers classify the fragments. You can read an overview of our Talk boards tags in the Sorting Phase Data review.

Passoveris one of the most widely celebrated Jewish holidays, commemorating the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. The name comes from the Hebrew Pesach(“to pass over”), referring to when G-d passed over the Jewish homes during the final of the Ten Plagues of Egypt. It begins on the 15th day of the Hebrew month Nisan, and lasts for seven or eight days. (In 2020, that means it begins at sundown on April 8 and ends Thursday evening on April 16.)

Most people associate Passover with the Seder, the ritual feast that marks the beginning of Passover. It’s usually celebrated at home with family, friends, and community members. The haggadah is the book used during the Seder on Passover, retelling the story of the Exodus from Egypt. There are many options for a haggadah, varying in commentary, illustrations and translations. From left to right: Subjects 11619897, 11596803, 11583880,

In 2018, we used the power of the crowd to create a Haggadah out of fragments from the Cairo Geniza. This patchwork haggadah invites people to look critically at the texts that they use on the holiday. You can check it out on Sefaria! Combining fragments tagged by volunteers, we ordered the fragments according to their place in the seder. You can read more about that process in an earlier blog post. You’ll notice that the text may differ from modern Hebrew, and that some of the fragments are written in Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Persian, and other languages!

After candles are lit and everyone is seated at the table, the Passover Seder can begin. The first step, Kadesh, is when the attendees recite the Kiddush. Subject 11614566: ENA 2945.20, Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary

Urchatz is when attendees wash their hands in preparation. Karpas is the dipping of a vegetable into salt water, symbolizing the tears the Jews shed during their servitude. Subject 11596834: ENA 2150.34, Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary Subject 12502537: ENA 2434.2, Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary

During Passover, one cannot eat chametz (leaven bread) and instead eats matzot (unleavened flatbread). Three matzot are stacked in the middle of the Seder table. When the Seder Leader calls out “ Yachatz”, the three matzot are taken out, shown to all, and the middle piece broken in half to be hid until later.

During the Magid, the story of the Exodus from Egypt is read aloud. This section is also known for the Four Questions and Four Sons, explaining why these traditions are upheld to this day. Subject 11583874: Halper 213, University of Pennsylvania, Hebert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies Library, Cairo Genizah Collection

During Rachtzah, attendees once again wash hands for a ceremonial cleansing, while reciting the traditional blessing. Subject 12499510: ENA 696.10v, Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary

During Motzie, the blessing for the matzot is recited, followed by the Matzah,a second blessing and the eating of a small piece of the bottom matzoh. Next is the Maror, where the bitter herbs are eaten to remember the affliction of the Jewish people from sorrow, persecution, and suffering of life in bondage. And in Korech, the dipped maror and matzoh are combined in a sandwich. Subject 11606694: ENA 1966.6, Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary

Finally, it’s time to eat during Shulchan Orech!The meal customarily starts with a hard boiled egg dipped in salt water, a sign of mourning. Eating isn’t officially done until Tzafun, where the broken matzah from Yachatz returns to the table to be eaten by all the participants. Subject 11609304: ENA 2322.13, Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary

Next is Bareich, the grace after meals is recited — the Birkat Hamazon. The cup of Elijah (and sometimes Miriam) is set out for his arrival. During Hallel, the remainder of the Psalms of Praise are read aloud. Subject 11609306: ENA 2322.14, Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary

In the conclusion of the Seder, the leader calls out Nirtzah — next year in Jerusalem! Attendees sing songs and enjoy each other’s company. The last song of the night for many is “Chad Gad Yah”, popular with children for its simplicty. We’ve written before about the fragment below as part of our #TalkingTheTalk series! Subject 11606300: ENA 1697.12, Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary

Chag Pesach sameach!

Check out more tags or start your own by participating in Scribes of the Cairo Geniza on Zooniverse!

By Judaica DH at the Penn Libraries on .

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Exported from Medium on April 14, 2020.

Cite this post: admin. “DataDeepDive: Passover”. Published April 07, 2020. https://judaicadh.github.io//blog/2020-04-07-passover/. Accessed on .