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Semiotics & Passover Celebration

According to Leeds-Hurwitz in Semiotics and Communication: Signs, Codes, Cultures (1993), one of the practices that separates humans from other animal life is the ability to not only recognize and use symbols, but to create them as well. Loosely defined, semiotics is the ôstudy of signs,ö and how those signs are interrelated in the code systems and cultures where they are found (Leeds-Hurwitz, 1993, p. 22). One area where signs and symbols are used profusely is in religious and cultural rituals and celebrations. This paper will describe a religious celebration, in this case the seder at Passover, and then analyze the signs and how they relate to each other within that celebration.

Passover, otherwise known as Pesach, , is one of the most sacred celebrations of the Jewish faith. Just before the celebration, homes are ritualistically cleaned and special foods that are kosher for Passover sought out and prepared. Care is taken to remove all bread products that have yeast, or rise, in them. Lasting eight days (seven in Israel), Passover commemorates the liberation of Jews from enslavement in Egypt. It takes place in the spring, on the 15th of the Hebrew month Nissan, which is typically sometime in April. Seder occurs on the first night or two of Passover, depending on the custom of those holding it (ôWhat is Passover,ö 2004).

Seder itself is the ritual meal central to the Passover celebration, and while the meal may vary from region to region, there are still several elements that are consistent throughout. On the table, there usually is a Seder Plate that holds the ritual food for the feast, which includes bitter herbs, an egg (roasted or hardboiled), a lamb shankbone, greens, and the ôcharosetö (or haroseth). Also on the table will be ômatzahö or ômatzoh,ö a specially prepared unleaven bread, salt water, and a cup of wine for Elijah the Prophet, should he come to visit. Additionally, four cups of wine are dr...

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Semiotics & Passover Celebration. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 20:35, May 24, 2020, from