The Passover holiday began last night at sundown and we commemorated it with a Passover Seder, or ritual meal. Traditionally in homes of the Diaspora we say "next year in Jerusalem", meaning that we hope to return to the holy land and be able to practice our Jewish customs in Israel. Well, this year I got that much closer and am celebrating the holiday in Israel! My boss Dori invited me to her family's seder. They are a large Yemenite family who live on a Moshav (small, farm-town, type neighborhood) and so I got to see what the moshav was like and experience a Yemenite Seder. Pictured is a traditional Yemenite Seder Table. Most are used to seeing the seder plate with Matzah (flat, cracker bread for passover), Maror (bitter herbs), Charoset (sweet mixture usually of apples and nuts), Karpas (green vegetable), Zroah (lamb shank bone), and Beitzah (hard-boiled egg). The Yemenite table is similar, but it has raddishes, lettuce, celery, and parsley. They also had roasted lamb meat, instead of just a bone, and the Charoset was blended into a paste with apples, dates, wine, many types of nuts, and some other ingredients.
Even though growing up we never did anything very traditionally I remember that I really loved celebrating Passover. This is for a few particular reasons.
First is the Passover story itself. In a very brief summary, during Passover we retell the Jewish people's journey of being enslaved in Egypt and being freed—it is essentially the story of the Exodus. I love that this holiday is about liberation. It reminds us not only of the liberation we experienced thousands of years ago from Egypt and eventually to the holy land, but it also serves as a yearly reminder for us to liberate ourselves from anything that we might be letting keep us from being happy and living better lives. It also reminds us to look at the world and see where oppression, such as the oppression the Jews faced in Egypt, exists and what we as a human people (not just a Jewish people) are doing about it.
Second is that the holiday, as many Jewish holidays are, is about tradition and passing it down. The reason we go through the Passover Haggadah, retelling the entire story every year is to tell it to the younger generations at the table. Last night I watched the children sit with their parents and read parts of the story. One of the younger boys had a special Haggadah from his kindergarten, and I just thought to myself as I watched him follow along with his father how I too will someday have kids and our family will tell the same story over our own table and create our own traditions and memories.
Lastly, Passover reminds me that the Jewish people are very diverse, which is very important to me as someone who is not a stereotypical Jew. There are so many varieties of Jews around the world, Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Yemenite, Ethiopian, American, etc., and each have different passover traditions. It even varies from family to family. The beauty is that every family, every Jew, can have their own traditions and they will still do it with the core value of passing down the stories and traditions to the next generation.
I hope that all who are celebrating have a wonderful holiday filled with sweet company, delicious food, and wonderful memories are made!