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Monday, March 29, 2010

First Evening of Passover---The Seder Dinner

Hello Boys and Girls:

This evening is the first day of Passover. It begins at sunset but also officially begins with the lighting of the candles on the Seder table are . The Passover Seder is a Jewish ritual feast that marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover. It is held on the evening of the 14th day of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar, which corresponds to late March or April in the Gregorian calendar. The Seder is a ritual performed by a community or by multiple generations of a family, involving a retelling of the story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. This story is in the Book of Exodus (Shemot) in the Hebrew Bible. The Seder itself is based on the Biblical verse commanding Jews to retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt: "And you shall tell it to your son on that day, saying, 'Because of this God did for us when He took me out of Egypt.'" (Exodus 13:8) Traditionally, families and friends gather in the evening to read the text of the Haggadah, an ancient work derived from the Mishnah (Pesahim).The Haggadah contains the narrative of the Israelite exodus from Egypt, special blessings and rituals, commentaries from the Talmud, and special Passover songs. Seder customs include drinking four cups of wine, eating matza and partaking of symbolic foods placed on the Passover Seder Plate. The Seder is performed in much the same way by Jews all over the world. (Google "seder dinner" to read more.)

The first thing that greeted us when we walked into our daughter Shannon and son-in-law, Aaron's home was the colorful dining table set for celebration. We knew this was an evening of great importance but also of celebration.

Our Seder dinner was compiled of friends and family of different religions and ethnic groups. What a beautiful experience to be able to sit down together and remember in song, food, drink and written passages
the struggles of liberation many cultures have experienced and are still experiencing today. The symbolism of the Seder dinner rings true to our present-day struggles as it did for the Israelites a thousand year's ago. We were all there united by faith in God that no human should be a slave bound by hatred or persecution.

The Seder Plate is of utmost importance.  Rabbi Haas presented this plate to Shannon and Aaron for their first anniversary and their first Seder dinner. Each section has a food which symbolizes a struggle. For instance, the parsley is dipped into salted water and eaten to symbolize the tears of the people of Israel. The egg symbolizes new life or new beginnings. Each of us at the table had foods in the Seder Plate, except for the lamb shank. As Rabbi Hass read in Hebrew from the Haggadah, we took a bite of the foods. We also participated by reading narratives as a group.

Mrs. Haas prepared the Matza ball soup. It was served after the Seder Plate. This was very good and reminded me a bit of homemade noodles. The Matza balls are made from wheat and dropped in the chicken broth which has been prepared with carrots, onions and celery. Another food which is just "tradition" was
gefilte fish. This is a compressed piece of several fish and spices. I have not acquired a taste for it so I guess I will have to work on this one. With all of this is the "4 glasses of wine." Each glass has it's own symbolism and readings. The main course was brisket, cooked to perfection. Shannon also served green beans and potato salad. We were all having a wonderful time. Well, the 4 glasses of wine had a lot to do with it...but, the symbolism was awesome. I really want to watch Exodus again. This experience also illustrated how we are all the same...different but the same. We believe God is good.

As you experience Holy Week or Passover, reflect on what binds us together as humans. Hope. Tradition. Love. Beliefs. We believe in new beginnings. That is why we have hope that our world will become a better place. No slavery. No bigotry. No starvation and no torture. We are surrounded by hope. Baby chicks, lambing, wildflowers, budding oak trees. We cannot ignore the message God is sending us...a new beginning is about to be born.

What traditions do you and your family share this time of year? How do you celebrate spring?

Until next time...share a meal with someone you do not know...raise a glass of wine and toast life's blessings...sit and watch the birds build a nest...breath slowly...love deeply...

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