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'Climate change is a modern day plague', says Rabbi on eve of Passover

PUBLISHED: 11:04 17 April 2019 | UPDATED: 11:25 17 April 2019

Rabbi David Hulbert lights a menorah and sings his blessings to the audience at the multi-faith dinner  in Ilford on January 18 last year. Photo: Aaron Walawalkar

Rabbi David Hulbert lights a menorah and sings his blessings to the audience at the multi-faith dinner in Ilford on January 18 last year. Photo: Aaron Walawalkar

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The modern day plague of climate change will be on the mind of some of the borough’s Jewish worshippers as they celebrate Passover this weekend.

Communal Seder meal held by the East London and Essex Liberal Synagogue. Photo: Bob KamallCommunal Seder meal held by the East London and Essex Liberal Synagogue. Photo: Bob Kamall

Known as Pesach in Hebrew, Passover begins on Friday, April 19 and runs until April 27.

It celebrates the exodus of the Jewish people, led by the prophet Moses, from Egyptian slavery.

The Recorder spoke to Rabbi David Hulbert of the East London and Essex Liberal Synagogue, in Marlborough Road, to understand more about the meaning behind the festival and its continued relevance today.

“We are celebrating how the Israelite slaves were miraculously taken out of Egypt with God's plagues,” he said.

Children at the East London and Essex Liberal Synagogue took part in a practice Seder last week ahead of Passover. Picture: Merle MuswellChildren at the East London and Essex Liberal Synagogue took part in a practice Seder last week ahead of Passover. Picture: Merle Muswell

Written in the Old Testament, the Passover story can be found in the Islamic and Christian, as well as Jewish, holy texts.

As the legend goes, God punished the Pharaoh of ancient Egypt, and his people, with 10 plagues when he refused to liberate the children of Israel.

The plagues ranged from turning the rivers of the Nile into blood, to killing all Egyptian first-borns.

“We will have a very large communal Seder [meal] – we are expecting around 150 people,” he said.

“Most Jews will be with their families on Friday evening.”

Rabbi Hulbert said that, this year, worshippers are considering placing a “red hot chili pepper” on the Passover plates adorning their dining tables to represent the threat of climate change and global warming.

He said: “Global climate change is equivalent to one of the plagues that destroyed the civilisation of the Egyptians.

“Climate change is a modern day plague.”

As is tradition, guests will eat unleavened bread called Matzah, read passages of the Passover story from a book called the Haggadah and sing folk and religious songs.

“It is a happy celebration where we have lots of Matzah and drink four cups of wine,” Rabbi Hulbert added.

The cups of wine are to celebrate the overflowing joy Jews have for their freedom, he explained.

It also symbolizes the four points on a compass and the idea that “freedom is for everybody” and “has to be in all four corners of the world”.

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