Today marks the first day of Passover, a day when families gather around tables to retell stories, share food and pass on traditions that mean so much to so many.
On this night, the youngest member of a Jewish family asks four questions at the Passover Seder meal. “Why is this night different from all other nights?” is one of the four and the answer is shared:
Traditionally, the story of the Exodus out of Egypt when God “passed over” the Israelite homes. “As the story goes, during the tenth and final plague, God passes through the land of Egypt and strikes down the firstborn of every household. But the Jews have been told to mark their doors with the blood of a lamb they’ve sacrificed — the Passover offering — and so God “passes over” their homes. Jews give thanks for being “passed over” and protected from the plagues: it’s a reminder that even when Jews are oppressed, the Bible teaches that they are a chosen people and will survive.” (NPR)
Listening to NPR this morning on a drive into Atlanta, I heard a remarkable story about horseradish and Passover.
Horseradish sits on several Seder tables for the start of Passover, “symbolizing the bitterness ancient Hebrews experienced during slavery in Egypt. It’s part of the participatory ritual that is the Seder — something people do, and eat, and ask, to bring the past to life at the table.The Hebrew word for bitter herb, maror, comes from the same linguistic root of the word that’s used to describe how Egyptians “embittered” the lives of the people they enslaved. And by eating it, participants are supposed to feel that hardship.”
I would imagine we all have a bitterness in our mouths after the year we’ve had. A bitterness that neither sorbet nor even Colgate will take away.
But the Seder plate will have that bitter herb or root to symbolize the harshness Jews were treated with when they were slaves in Egypt. Slaves. That is so sad, wrong and as bitter as it gets.
The sting of the horseradish while grating, cutting, and eating is a connection to the feelings generations have felt…a sting that lives in the hearts of all who celebrate Passover.
“Rituals change as the people who make them change. From lettuce to horseradish. Ancient Hebrews to 21st century Americans. Lockdown to normal life. And as Jews taste whatever bitter symbols are on their Seder plates tonight, they’ll feel something. It could be the full weight of this past year, the sharpness of the grief. Or it could be the fresh shoots of freedom, and the spring that’s just starting to emerge.” (NPR)
On Faith and Fitness:
Pray for all celebrating Passover and please move your body today! Give lots of hugs with your immunized friends and family. I read somewhere we all need at least eight hugs a day.
Go get ’em!