By Carole Stone
When many people — Jews included — think of Passover, they think of the wonderful foods that are customary at this time. They salivate over chicken soup with matzoh balls, gefilte fish, chopped liver, succulent brisket, and oniony potato kugel, redolent with chicken schmaltz. Passover is a holiday noted for its rich and tantalizing foods.
Before the meal, however, is the Seder, the ritual that includes, among other things, the telling of the Passover Story. This, too, is an essential part of our observance of Passover.
The word “seder” means order. First is the blessing over the wine – “the fruit of the vine.” Then the hands are ritually washed, in remembrance of that ritual in the Temple in Jerusalem. A bit of parsley is now dipped in salt water and eaten to remember that every springtime we recall the tears of our enslavement in Egypt. Then we break the middle of three matzohs, the unleavened “bread of affliction,” which is eaten throughout the week of Passover to acknowledge that when our ancestors escaped from Egypt, they didn’t have time to let their bread rise.
Now we tell the Passover Story, how Moses asked Pharaoh to “let my people go” from their bondage in Egypt, and how Pharaoh refused time and again, bringing down each of the 10 Plagues upon the Egyptians. During this part of the Seder we invite “those who are hungry” to join us and partake of our feast. The youngest guest, usually a child, then asks the Four Questions: “Why is this night different from all other nights?” We also speak of the “Four Children,” who symbolize the four types of Jews — those who are wise, those who are wicked, those who are simple, and those who do not even know to ask. We now eat a little bitter herb, usually horseradish, to remind us of the bitterness we endured at the hands of Pharaoh. We temper it with the sweetness of charoset, a mixture of chopped apples, walnuts, and sweetened wine, resembling the mortar that was used for the bricks we made while enslaved.
After washing our hands again, we bless and partake of the matzohs. Then comes the glorious Passover meal! Although Sephardic Jews commonly eat lamb among other meats and poultry during the Seder, Ashkenazi Jews refrain from eating lamb at this time because lamb recalls the korbon, the sacrifice given during Temple times.
After we have over-indulged, we return to complete the ritual. We have secretly hidden the middle matzoh, the Afikomen. The children are now encouraged to find and redeem it for a reward!
By now, we have drunk two glasses of wine as part of the service. Now we have two more glasses as we praise and thank the Almighty for our freedom, our meal, and our blessings.
This year, Passover begins the evening of Saturday, March 27. Although quarantine forbids our joining as a community to celebrate this holiday, CHESMA, AC will hold its Seders via Zoom. Please check our website, www.shalomsanmiguel.org, for all necessary information.
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