Passover begins on Wednesday night, a High Holy Day in the Jewish faith when people come together and share their love with strangers.
The eight-day celebration marks the departure of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, as recounted in the Book of Exodus (called “Shemot” in the Torah).
Rabbi Nicole Luna of Temple Beth El, located at 16225 Winkler Road, tells WINK News her holiday is centered around freedom, justice and loving strangers.
“To love the stranger, to take care of the stranger, to be kind to the stranger,” Luna said.
And after Hurricane Ian, that last message has never been more relevant.
“This is a holiday that tells us to take care of those in need,” Luna said.
This is exactly what Luna says the Jewish community of Southwest Florida is doing.
“One thing that our congregation is doing is making sure that all of our congregants who are displaced from the hurricane have a place to celebrate Passover,” Luna said.
On the first two nights of Passover, families hold a seder. After lighting candles, they enjoy a special meal together, in which each ingredient represents a part of the Exodus story.
“Charoset, which is like a mixture of apples and raisins and sweet wine… it represents the mortar of the bricks,” Luna said. “We eat a special food called matzah, which is unleavened bread… that reminds us that the Israelites were in such a rush to get out of their oppressive situation that they didn’t even have time for the bread to rise.”
Judaism holds Passover as a holiday that celebrates their birth as a free people.
“It is the story of the miracle of the Jews being free and crossing the Red Sea and heading toward the Promised Land,” Luna said.