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Reflections on Seder

Earlier this week I attended my first Passover Seder and it was a memorable experience. I was raised Catholic and until adulthood I had never heard of a Seder.   For those of you who are not Jewish, this is a ritual dinner that marks the beginning of Passover. The dinner has a set ritual that tells the story of the deliverance from bondage in Egypt. We read from the Haggadah – a book that includes the story of The Exodus, asks questions, and includes a mix of Hebrew and English (thankfully for me), and a number of prayers.   What I really enjoyed was the symbolism throughout the meal and the fact that the religious significance and story of Passover was brought into the home to be shared as a family event.

Our table included a Passover Plate and every item on the plate had special meaning. I may not have gotten these meanings correct, but this is what I believe each meant.

There was a lamb shank bone that represented the Paschal lamb (whose blood was used to mark the Jewish homes which God passed over during the final plague). I believe the egg in the cup symbolized the potential for a new life. The plate also held a brown mixture of applies, nuts and spices that had been mixed with wine. This mixture symbolized the mortar used by Hebrew slaves in constructing Egyptian buildings. A large piece of horseradish symbolized the bitterness of slavery.  Parsley dipped in salt water represented the tears that were shed during slavery.

During the ritual we ate matzah – a cracker-like bread which symbolized the haste in which the Hebrews left Egypt – departing before their bread had time rise.

Midway during the ritual there is a stopping point at which a delicious dinner is served. Our dinner concluded with a dessert of homemade macaroons that were truly yummy.

I learned a fair amount about family customs and Hebrew tradition in those hours with my Jewish friends, and I truly appreciate their kindness in inviting me to share in this special evening.