For years I’ve harbored a curiosity about Judaism. It all started with a friend at summer camp who told me that Bat Mitzvah was all about mozzarella sticks and presents.
Twenty years later, the world’s 12th largest religion still captures my attention. Blessed with an invitation from one of my best friends Mira, I was going to Passover dinner to find out what it’s all about.
Like Christians around Easter and Muslims during Ramadan, Passover is that yearly holiday when many wayward Jews find religion. One day it’s bacon egg and cheese sandwiches and the next it’s full on kosher. Kosher law is very complex with many nuances, but here are the big take aways- no pork, no shellfish, meat and dairy cannot be eaten together, and leavened breads are forbidden during Passover which is why matzo is so important.
The purpose of Passover is to re-tell the story of the Jewish exodus from slavery. For some quick history framework, I suggest watching The Prince of Egypt.
The Seder, or storytelling ritual, takes about hour and traditionally begins at sundown . Families with children often use props to keep their attention which explains the yellow plastic locust I found buried in my afro. Adults are obligated to drink four glasses of wine throughout the Seder. The significance of each glass varies depending on who you ask, but I’m sure you can imagine how else wine might come in handy at this large scale family function where singing together is a requirement.
After suffering through nine of the ten plagues, crossing the Dead Sea, singing a few songs, saying some prayers, mumbling a bit of Hebrew, sampling the bitter herb, drinking symbolic tears, breaking the matzo and making charoset sandwiches, dinner began.
Gefilte fish is probably the most frightening Jewish food. It’s white, dense, and taste like a blend of fish food and maple syrup, without a doubt an acquired taste. The brisket on the other hand was served in a rich sauce, it was salty, tender, and my hands down favorite. We also had two types of kugal which was like a potato noodle casserole and tzimmes which was a blend of sweet potatoes, carrots, potatoes, onions and prunes.
Passover is about family. My favorite moment was when the fathers recited a blessing while resting palms on their children’s heads. For two weeks Mira’s grandmother made lists, cooked and prepared. She also
allowed people to drink red wine over her white carpet, which is simply love encapsulated. There was bickering and kisses, the requisite bitter teenager and the over protective Mom. And in the air there was that overwhelming sense of security that comes with being around people who look just like you and love you despite your faults.
So that’s Passover at a glance, but I would love for some of you Jews out there to add some color. What does your family do? Please tell us about your ridiculous aunt or obnoxious uncle.
Passover is about telling your story, so let’s hear it.