Wednesday marked the first night of Passover 2020.
Although my grandfather was a rabbi and we used to observe most of the Jewish religious dates, it was much more for the fun than any strict adherence to dogma.
Hanukkah was the fave cos of all the prezzies of course, and Sukkot is cool cos it was a gathering of the harvest, and Passover/Pesach was chock full of symbolism and the time for the youngest member of the family (usually me) to have center stage reciting the Four Questions to explain what Passover is all about. (see below)
How is this night different from all other nights? This is one year none of us will ever forget.
Growing up, my son wasn’t too interested in anything Jewish, probably because we don’t live in a Jewish community and the lure of beach and ocean and skateboarding was more important, so I didn’t really push religion on him because in all honesty, I don’t really care.
For me, seeing a butterfly or growing and eating our own fruit and veggies is equally as spiritual or more so than being forced to sit in a smelly synagogue and recite endless words.
However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by my son and DIL’s interest in dipping their toes (along with Angel Boy 2.0’s) into the ritual and symbolism of certain Jewish holidays.
For instance, last night we all gathered together to celebrate Passover dinner. Since they are physically located in the Pacific Northwest and I’m here in SoCal and we obviously can’t be together right now because of the pandemic restrictions, I was able to be included via FaceTime, which was actually pretty awesome. I think the original Charlotte would approve.
Keepin’ it real, they set a place for Elijah, upon which my grandson placed a very realistic looking furry fake rat. Yup, he’s his daddy’s boy for sure. He had grape juice instead of wine, and if the way he drank it and kept refilling his glass is any indication of future behavior, well, ’nuff said.
I still have the Four Questions memorized, tucked away somewhere up in my gray matter, so I helped with the pronunciation, while my son read the story of Passover and they followed the rules of eating the symbolic foods on the Sedar Plate.
Angel Boy 2.0 ran off to find the afikomen (a piece broken off from a matzo during a Seder and put aside to be eaten at the end of the meal. (It’s traditionally hidden during the Seder to be searched for by the children.) There’s a really funny Curb Your Enthusiasm episode about a Passover dinner, not sure what season, but it’s on Amazon Prime.
It ended with latkes and matzo ball soup (for them) and tofu for me. There’s always a silver lining and always a rainbow after a storm, if you keep your eyes open.
Here’s some info about Passover:
The story about the origin of Passover is also the story of the life of Moses. For a time, the Israelites lived in peace and prosperity amongst the Egyptians until a new Pharaoh saw them as a threat to his power. He enslaved them and ordered all their sons to be killed at birth to prevent a new leader from arising.
According to the story, one mother was able to conceal the birth of her son, Moses. When she could no longer hide him, she hid him amongst the bulrushes. The Pharaoh’s daughter noticed the baby and decided to adopt him. She sent Moses’ sister to find an Israelite woman to nurse him, so he was reunited with his mother. When Moses was older, he moved into the palace where the Pharaoh’s daughter raised him as her own son.
As a young man, Moses noticed the suffering of the Israelites and his actions in retaliation forced him to leave Egypt to become a shepherd. God appeared to Moses one day in the form of a burning bush and commanded him to return to Egypt to lead his people into freedom with the help of his brother Aaron. Although Moses and Aaron repeatedly begged the Pharaoh to free the children of Israel, they were not successful. As punishment, God inflicted 10 plagues on the Egyptians. After the 10th plague, in which all first-born children of the Egyptians died, the Pharaoh agreed to free all Israelites and to allow them to leave Egypt with their possessions. As they had to leave in a hurry, they did not have time to allow bread to rise, so they baked unleavened bread, known as matzoh (plural matzah), for the journey.
Many aspects of Passover have a symbolic meaning. Cleaning the house to remove chametz, using a candle, a feather, a wooden spoon, and a paper bag, symbolizes the removal of egotism and spiritual coarseness from life. The matzoh represents the haste in which the Israelites left Egypt, and the red wine or grape juice represents the blood of sacrifices and male circumcision. Special kitchen utensils and the Seder Plates are used in the special Passover meals.
The Seder Plate consists of 3 matzoh piled on top of each other on a plate or clean cloth, which are then covered with another plate or cloth. Next, small pieces of symbolic foods are then placed on top. The foods are: zeroa , a roasted shank bone or chicken neck; beitzah, a hard boiled egg; maror, freshly grated horseradish or the stalks of romaine lettuce; charoset, a mixture of chopped apples, nuts, and wine; karpas, a non-bitter vegetable, such as an onion or a boiled potato; and chazeret, more horseradish or romaine lettuce. A dish of salt water and wine accompanies the Seder Plate. Each item on the plate represent a different aspect of the Passover story and they are eaten in a particular order and in specific combinations during the ceremonial meal. From https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/jewish/first-day-of-passover
The Four Questions:
?מַה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכָּל הַלֵּילוֹת
Ma nishtanah halailah hazeh mikol haleilot?
Why is this night different from all other nights?
.שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין חָמֵץ וּמַצָּה, הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה – כֻּלּוֹ מַצָּה
Shebchol haleilot anu okhlin hametz umatzah; halailah hazeh, kuloh matzah.
On all other nights we eat leavened products and matzah, and on this night only matzah.
.שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין שְׁאָר יְרָקוֹת – הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה (כֻּלּוֹ) מָרוֹר
Shebchol haleilot anu okhlin sh’ar y’rakot; halailah hazeh, maror.
On all other nights we eat all vegetables, and on this night only bitter herbs.
.שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אֵין אָנוּ מַטְבִּילִין אֲפִילוּ פַּעַם אֶחָת – הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה שְׁתֵּי פְעָמִים
Shebkhol haleilot ein anu matbilin afilu pa’am ehat; halailah hazeh, shtei f’amim.
On all other nights, we don’t dip our food even once, and on this night we dip twice.
.שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין בֵּין יוֹשְׁבִין וּבֵין מְסֻבִּין – הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלָּנוּ מְסֻבִּין
Shebchol haleilot anu okhlin bein yoshvin uvein m’subin; halailah hazeh, kulanu m’subin.
On all other nights we eat sitting or reclining, and on this night we only recline.