Sometimes you hear about something your whole life but don’t really understand it, or you think it is an outdated practice that no one does now. Passover was like that for me.
When I was a child, I considered Passover itself a fascinating but horrific story from the Bible. Can you imagine, if you were a good Israelite kid and you had good parents but they forgot to put the blood on the door or they didn’t use the right kind of lamb? Maybe my fear stems from watching Charlton Heston in the Ten Commandments. How scary would it be to have to worry about sleeping though a night with a God authorized Massacre going on outside? As a firstborn, I struggled with these questions and also wondered why wouldn’t Pharaoh himself, by standard custom, have been the firstborn (since firstborn is heir to the throne)? I digress.
Though I found Passover fascinating and had read about the feast, and that Christ himself celebrated it just before his death, as a Christian I just didn’t “get it”. I thought it was like a dated antique, old and beautiful but not really being used any more.
I realized a few years ago that Passover is, in fact, still celebrated in a traditional way by many people of both Christian and Jewish faiths. Since then I have attended several Seder meals and thoroughly enjoyed the chance to better understand history and my faith by experiencing a tradition that is literally thousands of years old. Here is a key to a few of the traditions that are unique to Passover.
This booklet is the “order of service” for a Passover feast. The traditional Haggadah tells the story of the Children of Israel and their Exodus from Egypt. They are available in many styles, and sometimes they even give them away in the grocery store. You can also print them out from online. These programs include a “script” of the story that guides each participant through the process. Because of the unified reading, it is essential that every guest be able to read a copy. If you plan this event for a large group (like a church), you may also want to consider projecting it overhead so everyone can read it. The beauty and depth of this story tells not only of the Israelites in Egypt but also helps us understand the significance of a Messiah.
This special plate contains the symbolic foods that help illustrate the story of the Israelites as is told in the Haggadah. What it contains can vary depending on your family traditions but most have the following:
- Salt water – to remind us of the tears cried in Egypt
- Herbs (parsley or lettuce) – a reminder of spring and hope
- Charoset -a mixture of nuts, apples, cinnamon, and wine
- Maror or bitter herbs (normally horseradish) – a reminder of the oppression of the Israelites
- An egg (hard boiled) – a symbol of new life and of the oppression of the Israelites
- A shank bone – normally of a lamb, to remind us of the blood sacrifice
- Matzo – this unleavened bread it to remind us of the haste that the Israelites left Egypt
- A candle
- Other important parts of the Passover table include wine glasses for each guest and juice or wine
There are countless resources on this beautiful meal and how you can make it a part of your family traditions. I hope you’ll have the opportunity this spring to experience the beauty of this tradition and take a moment to reflect on the rich, deep history of our faith.
This thick past is simple to make and is used during Passover as a reminder of the mortar used by the Israelites when they were slaves in Egypt.
1 large tart apple
1 cup walnuts
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp sugar
1 TBSP apple juice or wine
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until it forms a thick paste. This is traditionally served with Matzo on a Seder plate.