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    Passover is a Time of Celebration

    I’m writing this shortly after attending a Passover Seder and with the idea that not everyone knows what that is. I visited the website www.virtualjerusalem.com in order to have the salient facts correct.

    When I was growing up, we always had the Passover Seder at my Uncle Erry’s. It was a time of family and fun. My Aunt Renee would always cook enough for an army and the food was delicious. There are certain specific foods that are used in the actual Seder.

    “The Passover Seder (meaning order) is probably the most celebrated and beloved of Jewish home rituals. Most Jews have cherished memories of past family times spent at a seder. It is believed that the obligation to tell the story of the Exodus was observed by Jews' ancestors ever since the actual Exodus itself. The scriptural command (Exodus 13:8) to tell the story of the exodus to our children is interpreted as a positive commandment (mitzvah).”

    Even though my Uncle Erry is very old, we don’t trace our family traditions back quite that far. More recently I have attended Seder’s with Herman at friend’s homes and at the Synagogue. While these times each have a special memory, there’s nothing like your own family’s foods, recipes and traditions.

    ”There are some essential elements to the Seder that underlie the retelling of the Exodus. The three fundamental patterns of the Seder are the family, the individual, and the nation. As a home event involving the full family as well as guests, the Seder draws together all age groups. It requires the participation of the old and the young. On the individual level, the Seder requires every participant to feel as though he or she personally left Egypt. The national pattern of the Seder symbolizes the first step toward the final redemption from the slavery and the formation of the Jewish nation that did not exist as a nation before Exodus from Egypt.

    The "script" for this central ritual of Passover is the Haggadah (literally, "telling"). It contains questions and answers, stories, show and tell, song, food as reward and symbol, pathos, and suspense. The creation of this script took place over hundreds of years.

    The Seder takes place following the Passover evening synagogue service on the first two nights of Passover. There are a number of symbols that occur throughout the Seder, but perhaps the focal point of the whole event is the Seder plate. It contains a roasted shankbone, symbolizing the Pesach sacrifice in the Temple, a roasted egg symbolizing either the spring season or mourning (for the destruction of Jerusalem), maror (bitter herbs) to represent the bitter experience of the Hebrew slaves, haroset (a mixture of apples, nuts, raisins, spices, wine) symbolizing the mortar the Hebrew slaves used to build for the Egyptians, and karpas (parsley, celery, or another green vegetable) symbolizing the green of spring. The table must also have three pieces of matzah, each piece used for a different purpose, usually held in a special pouch made to be used during the Seder.

    The Seder service has a clear order, with each of 14 steps representing a different phase of the Seder. Together, they serve to teach the lesson of the Exodus, God's saving the Jewish people from slavery. Much of the Seder discussion focuses on God's might and the Divine role in redemption.

    Another special part of the Seder is the extra cup of wine left on the table for Elijah. The suspense and excitement engendered by sending a child to open the door for the prophet who will be a harbinger of messianic times is almost electric. The chanting of the song Dayenu ("it would have been enough"), a joyous recognition of God's numerous gifts to us in the course of the Exodus, is another highlight. Every Jew will have his or her own special memories of a past family Seder, but it is unquestionably among the greatest of our yearly rituals.”

    Well, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Suffice it to say, this has always been a great holiday for me. I hope this helps you understand a little more about this important Jewish tradition.


    "Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland who pursued an acting career in NYC and Los Angeles, now pursues free lance writing from Caroga Lake here in Fulton County. Previous columns may be accessed at her web site www.kathrynskorner.com"