Israelites’ exodus commemorated

Story captivates, inspires people to seek freedom

During the Passover seder, Jewish families read the Haggadah, or a guide which commemorates the Israelites’ exodus from ancient Egypt.

Egypt means a narrow place in Hebrew, said Rabbi Josh Wohl, spiritual leader of Agudath Achim Synagogue.

“It’s not just telling a story,” he said of the Haggadah, which includes the account of the 10 plagues that occurred in Egypt before Pharaoh finally gave the Jewish people their freedom. The Haggadah will be read after sunset today in Jewish homes as families begin the eight-day observance of Passover. The Haggadah also includes information on how to perform a seder, or meal that includes prayers, blessings, songs and other rituals to celebrate Passover.

Wohl said Jews consider the narrow places in their own lives during the observance. He said narrow places can be an addiction, family problems or being a workaholic. He said Jews relate to the story as if they symbolically came out of ancient Egypt today and consider what is constricting them in life.

“With God’s help, we can gain freedom and overcome the constrictions in our lives,” he said.

He said Passover is the most observed Jewish ritual and is the first established Jewish festival. He added that the exodus from Egypt is remembered in daily prayers.

The seder is more than reading a story in other ways, too. He said the purpose of the seder is to encourage discussion, and children take part in that discussion by asking four questions.

The questions represent different types of people: wise, superficial, simple or plain, and the one who does not know how to ask.

Rabbi Audrey Korotkin, spiritual leader of Temple Beth Israel, also talked about how Passover is associated with freedom and the unsung heroes who make it possible.

“Unlikely people do brave things,” she said.

Among them were five women who had a role in making the exodus story possible, Korotkin said. They were Jochebed, Miriam, Shifra and Puah and Bithiah.

Jochebed was Moses’ mother who hid her son a basket in the bulrushes. She did so because Pharaoh had commanded that all the Jewish male babies were to be killed.

Miriam, Moses’ sister, watched over him to see what would become of her baby brother.

Shifra and Puah were the Jewish midwives, who protected the newborn Jewish boys by telling Pharaoh the Jewish women gave birth before they could reach their homes to help deliver the babies.

Bithiah was Pharaoh’s daughter who raised Moses as her own.

She said they are people who are not usually associated with the exodus story, but they set the stage for Moses and Aaron to be able to do what what they did.

Korotkin said the ground work has to be laid for life-changing things to happen.

Relating that to today, she said teens are a group who often do not have a lot of clout, yet they are speaking out and taking part in the “Never Again” anti-gun rallies.

“It takes a lot of courage to do that,” she said.

Korotkin added that people are being oppressed around the world. She said the story of the exodus is one that captivates and inspires people to seek freedom.

In addition to seders in their homes, both Temple Beth Israel and Agudath Achim Synagogue hold community seders. Wohl said the second seder night is for Jews who live alone or members of the non-Jewish community who want to learn about the celebration. A second seder will be held at

6:30 p.m. Saturday at the synagogue.