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Feast & Fast

The Art of Food in Europe, 1500 – 1800

Judaism, Food, and the Passover

Jewish life was – and still is – filled with opportunities to gather around the table and turn it into a mini Temple (Mikdash me’at), but it would be a mistake to conclude that Jewish food begins and ends with the dietary laws (Kashrut) that prescribe what to eat (or not), with whom, and when. For Jews, food has long been an instrument not only of nourishment but also of community and renewal. With its capacity to unlock memories and fuse past and present, food offered early modern Jewish communities a profoundly unifying experience as they celebrated festivals, the Sabbath, and lifecycle events. One of the most multi-sensory Jewish ritual feasts is the Passover Seder (Pesach Seder), which commemorates the Exodus: the Israelites’ deliverance by God from slavery in Egypt. The Seder (meaning ‘order’) proceeds through a set sequence of blessings, songs, and recitation of the Haggadah, which tells the Exodus story and guides participants through various ritual acts.

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