Last weekend was one with two different celebrations- Easter and Passover. While the Easter celebrations were being prepared for some… there were many Jews planning their Passover Seder. Growing up I always marked this time of year by the television showing of “The Ten Commandments” and the story of the Jews escaping Egypt. There is nothing like Charlton Heston, as Moses, declaring, “Thus sayeth the Lord God of Israel: Let my people go.”
Over the years, the Passover Seder has had an increasing meaning for me. Part of that is due to the fact that I do not get home to spend time with my family as much as I would like. Also, as I have learned more about my family’s history I have an increased appreciation for how the Jewish people have survived and held onto their beliefs. I have a lot of respect for those with strong beliefs- whatever they may be.
Anyway, for those not familiar with Passover (or Pesach) I thought I’d share some of the things that my family and I do when we celebrate. I can’t speak for all Jews (and wouldn’t want to!), but I really love the time we have together as a family. A few years ago I found some hilarious finger puppets to use in the telling of the story of Passover. Check them out in the pictures below.
Mom always makes a great spread with all the representative foods used during the night. She has spent a lot of time putting together a special series of readings from several different Haggadahs. We all take turns reading from the books and say the blessings for the wine with Mom’s guidance. We talk about the symbolism of the various food on the seder plate.
Greens/ Karpas represent the initial flourishing of the Jews in Egypt. The salt water represents the tears shed by the Jews. Haroset is a mix of fruit, nuts, and wine and represents the mortar used to build the pyramid. Bitter Herbs (usually horseradish is used) allow us to taste the bitterness of slavery. The lamb shank bone represents the sacrifice of a lamb made at the Temple for a special Passover offering. The egg shows the circle of life.
The youngest child, Kait, asks the four questions and notes what is different about the night’s celebration.
1. On all other nights we eat bread or matzo, while on this night we eat only matzo.
2. On all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables and herbs, but on this night we have to eat bitter herbs.
3. On all other nights we don’t dip our vegetables in salt water, but on this night we dip them twice.
4. On all other nights we eat while sitting upright, but on this night we eat reclining.
There is always an extra place setting for Elijah and the door is kept open in case he should appear. (Yes, that’s right, the Jews are still waiting for their Messiah.)
As we tell the story of the Exodus we talk about the ten plagues that occurred.
The ten plagues brought on Egypt were:
1. Water to Blood
3. Gnats or Lice
4. Livestock Diseased/ Cattle Plague
7. Thunder and Hail
10. Death of the Firstborn
By the time we’ve made it through all the stories, reflections, and blessings we are usually so full that we hardly make a dent on the delicious meal that Mom has made. On the bright side, the leftovers are great!