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PASSOVER CELEBRATES FREEDOM JEWS RECALL PAST SLAVERY, SEEK JUSTICE.

Byline: BRAD A. GREENBERG

Staff Writer

The dinner table at Rabbi Paul Kipnes' house was topped Monday night with more than the ceremonial food associated with commemorating the Exodus from Egypt.

The arrangement of bitter herbs, parsley and matzo also included a football, history book and corkscrew.

The purpose of Passover, which began at sundown Monday, is to remind Jews of their deliverance from Pharaoh and to educate Jewish children about the seminal story of their people.

So Kipnes, leader of Congregation Or Ami in Calabasas, regularly uses props to spark discussion on Passover.

The football, his guests usually say, refers to the angel of the Lord passing over the Jewish homes and sparing their first-born sons.

The history book often incites debate about whether the Exodus is the literal history of the Jewish people or a mythical story.

And the corkscrew, well, some say it represents the work required to release the joy of life; others the treatment Pharaoh gave the Jews.

"It's the story of the Jews throughout history," Kipnes said. "My kids are pretty comfortable and well off, and they need to learn from our history and our traditions that their responsibility is not to sit back and enjoy it but to bring others to the table, into freedom."

The eight-day holiday will be celebrated with tens of thousands of Seders in homes and synagogues for family, friends and strangers. The meals, like the objects on Kipnes' table, are heavy with symbolism.

Bitter herbs represent the pain of slavery. Leavened bread is removed from homes and replaced with matzo because the Jews didn't have time to let the bread rise before fleeing Egypt.

The Haggada, a tract that retells the Exodus, guides the Seder. Many Haggadot are written with modernized messages, such as focusing three decades ago on the plight of Soviet Jews or calling attention to contemporary genocides.

By highlighting their own flight from slavery during Passover, Jews experience an annual call to pursue social justice and free the oppressed.

"If you see yourself as having been a slave in Egypt and having been freed from Egyptian slavery, you are supposed to become much more sensitive to all those who are enslaved in the world today," said Rabbi Eli Herscher of Stephen S. Wise Temple in Bel-Air. "You've never arrived in the Promised Land until all people are living in freedom."

At Beit T'Shuvah, a Jewish addiction recovery center in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood, 250 people gathered for a Seder titled "Addiction: The New Egypt." Half there supported the residents and the other half were recovering addicts, like Jacob Sandomire, 32 of Seattle.

"Exodus is leaving your slavery," Sandomire said. "My slavery was to an addictive lifestyle of immediate gratification. Now I am learning to have a goal -- like the Promised Land."

brad.greenberg(at)dailynews.com

(818) 713-3634

CAPTION(S):

2 photos

Photo:

(1) Rabbi Mark Borovitz leads a Passover Seder at Beit T'Shuvah, a Pico-Robertson recovery center, on Monday. Passover marks the deliverance of Jews from Egyptian slavery.

(2) A couple prays during the Seder at Beit T'Shuvah, a Jewish drug recovery center in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood.

Michael Owen Baker/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 3, 2007
Words:527
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