WHEN IS YOUR EASTER? and other thoughts on this week's Passover Celebration
Alayne, when is your Easter? I have been asked for much of my adult life.
Because I live in a small town that is mostly Christian, the proximity of Passover to the Easter celebration seems to prompt this curious question from my non- Jewish brethren.
One might think that the question is eye rolling worthy, but I don’t. There are times though I have wanted to say, You do know Passover came way before Easter, right?
Passover is about freedom, spring and the Exodus story. It has never been about gathering my own Jewish clan, other than my son, they are spread all over the country; it is almost impossible to make that happen. For the last thirty years, give or take a few misses, I have hosted large Seders of 25-30 people. I prefer to gather a mix of non Jewish friends by inviting them to participate in this unique and extremely pleasurable, spiritual experience.
Passover creates amazing dialogue simply because there is plenty of space and time at a Seder to do so. We read the story, we discuss the story and so many viewpoints arise that often move someone. It is a cleansing of sorts.
My grandparents taught me by example how to have calm discussions about topics my friends and I didn’t see eye to eye on, but in the end could look each other in those same eyes and hug. I treasure different and luscious viewpoints. These types of conversations can create a richness between people that is most rewarding.
I love my friends who think like I do, but I don’t want all of them to be the same. My life is far more interesting because I am willing to ask the questions that encourages different perspectives.
Everything about Passover is different.
We even ask 4 questions during the ceremony in Hebrew starting with Ma Nishtana,… Why is this night different from all of the other nights?
We share symbolic food too, Horseradish to remind us of the bitter times, Apples and Nuts, called Charoset that remind us of the mortar used between the bricks when they were slaves. Salted water for the tears cried and parsley for the newness of spring. And so much more.
I am one of those cultural Jewish people who takes what they need leaves the rest. I love metaphors, symbolism and tradition and I continue with these rituals to honor my Great Grandparents who escaped the Russian pogroms for religious freedom and American opportunity. And to honor so many family who didn’t make out. I am the lucky recipient of their sacrifices.
We all deserve freedom. All people.
What is freedom, really? Literally, we know the meaning of freedom, but personal freedom is more than being able to walk to and fro. Some of us are personally enslaved. We don’t often need shackles to imprison us, because we can have our own thoughts that do just that. We can be enslaved to the needs for power, money, food, drink, the list goes on, I am sure you get the point.
Passover is my favorite holiday because it is unifying holiday. We recline together, casually and have discussions that we may not have in our daily life.
My most treasured line in the telling of the story of Exodus is when the Jews leave Egypt with great haste, they made it to The Red Sea and couldn’t cross. Meanwhile, Pharaoh with second thoughts, sent his troops out after them.
As the Egyptian soldiers gained on the Israelites, G-d parted the Red Sea to let them cross. As they escaped, they looked back to see that the Red Sea had closed and the Egyptian soldiers were drowning. The Jews celebrated joyfully as they watched, with a smug does of schadenfreude, the soldiers drowning. The story stops here for a moment when G-d cries out,
“How can you sing when my children are drowning.”
It reminds me that we are all connected. And as this week unfolds with the news of historical proportions, we must remember that everyone has an opinion.
One does not trump another.
This is freedom. We all are equal in our opinions.
Schadenfreude is not a kind word and though it may feel like victory for some, others may not have the same experience. Ultimately we must remember that we really are all equal in our hearts and our opinions.
As I get ready to host this year during the mayhem of the news, I remind my own self to remember what I write today, not to sing when others are drowning. We are human beings and our freedoms come when we can look each other in the eye, break matzo together and allow our differences to take a rest and instead connect on what makes us the same.
As I prepare my feast, I end this post today with the parting words at the end of the Seder,
Let ALL who are hungry, come and eat.
Today, I am sharing links to a few of my favorite recipes by some of the best Jewish authors. You don’t have to have a Seder or be Jewish to try any of these. I enjoy the idea of bringing people together through food, whether at my table or theirs.
Happy Passover, Happy Easter and Happy Ramadan to all my friends I know and the ones I don't. May we all have freedom.
*Because I make some product recommendations in my blogs, I may get a small commission as an affiliate and or an Amazon affiliate. Anything I recommend I personally use. I want to make it easier to shop for items you may not have, need to replace-- or if you are a lover of all things kitchen like me, just want to add to your collection.
My Grandmother, Isabelle
My Grandmother rewrote many a Passover Seder to fit the times, the mood of the year and her company. As I was going through a wonderful book of her writing, I came upon some writing that I am not sure if she wrote, probably not:) so my apologies for its lack of proper credit, but I have included it below as an introduction to one of her Seders.
LINKS TO SOME OF MY FAVORITE PASSOVER RECIPES AND JEWISH AUTHORS.
- Charoset (This gives so many amazing recipes from around the world)
- http://www.secularjewishceremonies.net/images/Haroset_Schweitzer.pdf (if the charoset link doesn't open, use this website, it is amazing)
Homemade Horseradish by Joan Nathan
Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls by me
- Isabelle’s Brisket by me via my Grandmother
Isabelle's Chicken by me via my Grandmother
Matzo Ball Casserole by Rachel Myerson: I haven’t tried this one, but it looks completely delicious!
West African Brisket by Michael Twitty
Crispy Potato Kugel by Alison Roman
- Cucumber Crunch Salad with Curried Cashews by Yotam Ottolenghi
Moroccan Carrot Salad by My Jewish Learning
Coconut Macaroons by Ina Garten
Chocolate Toffee Matzo
This amazing piece of history gathered in a cookbook sums up why I continue the tradition of celebrating Jewish Holidays.
It was put together so that we never forget.
It is called HONEY CAKE & LATKES: Recipes from the Old World by the Auschwitz-Birkenhau Survivors. I highly recommend purchasing it, all proceeds go to the Auschwitz-Birkenhau Memorial Foundation. The recipes remind us that through survival, we have the privlege of generational memories to pass on. We must never take for granted the generations before us as we are lucky if we get to say that we had those generations if we were fortunate enough.
TIPS + SHORTCUTS
- When you cook a recipe that you have never tried that has some story or history to it, you are bringing new energy to your table and sharing it with your family.
- If you have any questions about any of these recipes or Passover, feel free to email me email@example.com
- Here is a great link to some basic information about Passover if this peaks your interest.