My First Passover

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April 19, 2011 by Chris French

I had an awesome opportunity last night! Kelly and I ate Passover with a Jewish family. Maybe I’m just a dork, but I thought it was awesome! These people have so much history that it’s mind-boggling! It was great to get a glimpse into some of that history.

When we got to the house there were about 20 people there and it was 6:30, not quite Passover yet. Not until the sun went down…some traditions have stuck like that, some have not. So we went out on the balcony and talked to Kelly’s friend (the one who invited us), until the sun went down. Then we went inside and everyone sat at this huge table. As soon as we walked in I noticed that there were Hebrew books lying on the table for each person. Now as I sat I picked mine up and started thumbing thru it. It’s got Psalms and songs and a lot of other writing in it. I soon found out that we’d be reading most of that writing, minus the songs. There were four parts to the Seder, which is what they call this experience of reading and eating. The couple’s whose house we were in had just lost the mother’s father, the patriarch of the family, but he had secured a promise from his grandson that he would lead the seder next year. This basically entailed reading whatever the book in front of us said to read. It was, of course, reminding us that God brought the Hebrews out of Egypt safely and secured for them another land.

There was a group part to the Seder, so when the book said “Group” everyone in the room would read together, then the Leader would take back over. There was also a food element to the Seder. We read for a little while, then we came to a part were you dip a sprig of parsley into salt water and eat it. This was to remember the Jew’s tears in Egypt. I almost cried…have you ever eaten parsley coated with salt water. It’s not your normal afternoon snack! Then we read some more and we passed around a matzoh cracker (exact same crackers we use for the Lord’s Supper). You were supposed to break part of the cracker off. Now I’m used to this, which is about the only thing that seemed familiar during this service, so I break off a small enough piece so everyone can have a piece just like I do every Sunday morning. Big Mistake! You don’t eat the cracker by itself. You put some horseradish on the cracker and eat them together, then you can’t take a drink for another 20 minutes. This was to remind us of the Jews bitterness and struggles in Egypt. This was also fairly effective.

Like I said there were four parts to the Seder. These four parts were separated by drinking your glass of wine (Kelly and I had grape juice, much more my style!) It was a toast of sorts to what you were remembering during that part of the Seder. About 2/3 of the way thru the service we had the actual Passover meal. The first course was matzoh ball soup. I really didn’t think I would like it, soups are usually not my cup of tea, but this was pretty good. Apparently if you take the matzoh crackers and put them in wather they’ll explode into this ball of gooey mush. Then came the main course. It consisted of potatoes, green beans and lamb sliced into strips. It was also very good. We continued the Seder after the Passover meal by opening the doors for Elijah to come in. You’ve got to remember that they’re still waiting for the Messiah so Elijah showing up is a huge deal. Apparently they’ve taken this now to be more symbolic (he’s here in spirit). Anyhow spirit or not the doors are literally open. The mother said one year her grandmother sent the customary small child to open the door and there was an old Jewish man in full Hasidic Jew garb standing in the doorway about to knock on the door. She almost peed in her pants! She’s been opening the door for Elijah for 60 years, now he’s finally here! Instead of Elijah it was just a Hasidic Jew having car problems, but he came in and ate Seder with them.

It was a very interesting night and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The majority of people eating with us were not Jews, they were Christians, but loved the history. In fact one of the guys there was originally from a village right outside of Thessalonica in Greece. He confirmed my suspicions. I should definitely visit that area!

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