Sunday, 28 March 2010

Some Passover Traditions

We as hebrews are about to enjoy one of the grandest times of our lives: our freedom from the hands of Pharaoh. When G-d brought us out with A Strong Hand.
All over the world, where there are hebrews, Passover will be remembered.
For example:
The Jews of Ethiopia strongly identify with the story of Exodus -- and indeed, the first of the famous airlifts that delivered them to Israel was actually called Operation Moses. In some Ethiopian families, the matriarch would destroy all of her earthenware dishes and make a new set to mark a true break with the past. Ethiopian Jews had no Haggadahs, and read about Exodus directly from the Bible. Matzahs were homemade, often from chickpea flour, and on the morning of the seder, a lamb would be slaughtered. They also refrained from eating fermented dairy like yogurt, butter, or cheese.

In a custom that began in Spain in the fourteenth century, the seder leader walks around the table three times with the seder plate in hand, tapping it on the head of each guest. Many Moroccan, Turkish, and Tunisian Jews adopted this tradition, which is said to bless those whose heads are tapped. This is sometimes connected to the Talmudic custom of "uprooting" the seder plate so that guests might ask questions about the Jews in Egypt. This is a tradition in the Reel home. In many Sephardic traditions, (a term used to describe Jews originally hailing from the Iberian peninsula and North Africa), an elder member of the family enacts a skit in costume, posing as an ancient Jew who experienced the exodus from Egypt and describing the miracles he saw. In the countries of the Caucasus region, Iraq, Kurdistan, Yemen, and others, the seder (usually the head of household), would put the afikoman matzah in a bag, throw it over his shoulder, and use a cane to support himself. Sometimes a child participated, and there was a call and response with the table: "Where are you coming from?" "Egypt," was the reply, followed by the story of the Israelites following Moses out of slavery. "And where are you going?" someone at the table would ask. "Jerusalem!" In our home, Mark comes in as Moshe, carrying the Passover lamb (it's one of my stuffed lambs)

Many different customs surround the welcoming of the prophet Elijah, who is said to visit every seder. While Ashkenazi Jews (whose families came from Germany and later Eastern Europe) commonly leave a goblet of wine for the prophet, in Casablanca, Morocco, Jews would set up an elaborate chair with cushions and ornaments and leave it empty for Elijah's arrival. (Next year, we shall do that) And in Marrakesh, dishes are prepared using the wine from Elijah's cup. (I use it for the following evening meal) Ashkenazi Jews often open the door to allow Elijah in, a tradition that wasn't historically a part of the Sephardic practice.

Both Hasidic Jews and Moroccan Jews have the custom of wearing white to seder, possibly to signify joyfulness. Some Jews wear white on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, or on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, although this varies. Mark wears the white tunic and Tallits from our wedding and I have a white and silver tunic from Morocco.

The important thing is not just in the celebrating of Passover, but the customs and stories that we bring to each of our Seder tables makes the Passover celebration not only more meaningful, but personal.
This year, Mark will have more stories to share at next years, for this year, he shall be celebrating with his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan.
Me? It will be quiet and personal as I remember Passovers of out and make new ones this year.
Like cleaning my kitchen by sunlight.
Yeah, there is a story. And when I finish the kitchen this eveening, I'll come back and tell you.
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