Hugh Carey, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — A handful of people stood behind the Tess Kaylie Chabad Community Center on Monday afternoon as a rabbi tossed bread into a fire that blazed in a metal container.
Burning of chametz — leavened bread — is done in preparation for the Jewish festival of Passover, which began Monday evening with women lighting candles before sunset and the first Seder service.
"Time is sacred to Jewish people," said Cheryl Wilson, a member of the Chabad Lubavitch of Utah.
Dozens of community members gathered at the center, 1760 S. 1100 East, for the first of two Passover Seders. The first Seder celebrates the birth of the Jewish people, which is preceded by the burning of negative forces, symbolized by the bread, according to Rabbi Benny Zippel of the Chabad Lubavitch of Utah. The removal of negative forces allows Jewish people to more fully celebrate during Passover.
Passover commemorates the deliverance of ancient Jewish people from Egypt almost 3,000 years ago. Members celebrate in communities and in their homes.
The preparation for passover includes getting rid of any food that contains leaven, or bread that has been allowed to rise. Jewish people do this by throwing bread away or selling it. What they can't get rid of by Monday afternoon before Passover, they burn.
Many aspects of chametz removal are symbolic. The bread that is puffed up with leaven symbolizes arrogance. When Jewish people burn the bread, it shows that these negative traits are "not put aside but entirely removed," Zippel said. The flame represents "the Jewish soul that is forever kindling in an effort to connect" with God, he said.
After the bread was burned, Zippel and those with him offered two prayers. The first declared their removal of the leaven from their possession and declared all leaven "nullified and ownerless." The next asked God to remove impurity from the Earth and evil inclinations from his people, in the same way they have removed leavened food from their homes and possession.
"The deeper mystical significance of (burning) the leavened food is to get rid of one's arrogance and one's awareness of self in our attempt to embrace humility and get rid of all arrogance," Zippel said before the prayer.
Jewish people across the world have been preparing in other ways for Passover, some for weeks, including Salt Lake City resident Lisa Goldstein Kieda.
Kieda, a member of the Chabad Lubavitch of Utah since 1992, takes seriously her religion's charge to let all who are hungry come and eat.
"This is kind of like a really uber-party," she said.
Kieda explained that she deep-cleaned her home in preparation for guests and bought special food in order to celebrate Jewish liberation and remember God.
Passover is observed in several services through eight days and includes two Seder meals, additional festive meals, restrictions of work that can be done, and special prayers, services and readings.
The first Seder occurs on the first night of passover. Jewish and non-Jewish people are invited. Each is encouraged to act as if he or she were part of the exodus out of Egypt, according to Chabad.org.
Food and actions symbolize the captivity of ancient Jewish people, the 10 plagues that Jewish people believe God sent to punish the pharaoh and the ancient Jewish people's escape from the Egyptians.
The meal progresses to symbolize the deliverance of the ancient Jewish people. For instance, participants lean at times to represent their status as free people, dip vegetables in salt water, which represents the tears shed by their ancestors who were slaves in Egypt, and eat the vegetable as another reminder of their freedom.
In addition to reminding Jewish people of their ancestors, Passover also serves as a reminder of modern-day deliverances.
"Passover is a time for each and every one of us to overcome his or her own bounds and limitations," Zippel said.
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