The Passover Seder: Passing on the Story of Freedom


Introduction to Passover

Passover (Pesach) is a major Jewish holiday that commemorates how the Jewish people went free from slavery in Egypt. In the Jewish calendar, Passover lasts eight nights from the 15th day of the month of Nisan and ends on the 22nd of Nisan. The Jewish calendar does not match the Gregorian calendar which is why Passover falls on a different date each year. This year Passover starts on the night of April 8th. Eating leavened food (chametz) is strictly prohibited during Passover. This means no pasta, no pizza, no bread, no cookies for eight days. The reason behind this is that the Jews left Egypt in a haze and did not have time for the bread to rise. Instead, people eat matzah – a big unleavened cracker.

Since it is not very flavorful, people have become very creative with their matzah recipes: very popular among kids is the matzah pizza, matzo brei or matzo crack.

Sharing Tradition With the Whole Family

Passover is a very family-friendly holiday. The family gets together to tell this story of freedom in a playful way. The center of a Passover dinner is a traditional meal called a Seder (order). It includes story-telling, singing, questions, food with meaning and even a game of hide-and-seek. The children drink four glasses of grape juice and the adults four glasses of red wine – which definitely helps to get everyone in a great mood! There’s a special book called Haggadah that guides families with children through this experience. At the seder, we travel back to ancient times in Egypt. It is up to every individual household how dramatic they want to create their Seder. Some buy costumes and play out the departure from Egypt. Some let their kids play with Passover Playmobile figures. Others buy fun masks of the plagues (see below).

The Passover Seder: Passing on the Story of Freedom Bella Behar Contributor Miami Moms Blog

The Passover Seder: Passing on the Story of Freedom Bella Behar Contributor Miami Moms Blog

A very important ritual step (and now more important than ever): we wash our hands before eating and then one more time during the Seder.

What Is on the Seder Plate and What It Symbolizes

Different people have different interpretations of what every item symbolizes but here is a general overview:

Three pieces of matzah: adults will break the middle piece in half and hide its larger piece, the afikomen, and children will have to look for it.

Zeroa: the roasted lamb bone has to be roasted or burnt because it symbolizes the Passover sacrifice. The bone is not eaten and can be used on both nights.

Karpas: leafy green vegetable. Most people use parsley for this. It will be dipped in a small bowl of saltwater which reminds us of the tears the Jews were crying while doing their backbreaking work as slaves.

Beizah: a hardboiled egg.  Eggs are very symbolic during springtime as most of you know from Easter. They stand for renewal of life and the new era for the Jews who are free now.

Maror: the bitter herbs remind us of the bitterness of slavery. People traditionally use horseradish for this.

Charoset: a mixture of apples, pears, nuts and wine, which resembles the mortar and brick made by the Jews to build the pyramids in Egypt. It is delicious and my favorite part of the Seder plate.

Hazeret: another form of bitter herbs, usually bitter lettuce. Not everyone uses this on their seder plate and it has a similar meaning to maror.

The Passover Seder: Passing on the Story of Freedom Bella Behar Contributor Miami Moms Blog

All these rituals remind us that what makes this night so special is our freedom story that has been passed from many generations.

Passover During Social Distancing Times

Most people host or attend a Seder for the first two nights of Passover. Normally, we go to my husband’s cousin’s house and have an epic time with the extended family. We will certainly miss that this year since we have to practice social distancing. But thanks to technology, we are going to have a Passover with the extended fam over Zoom. I am actually excited to see how this new experience will play out. Even my rabbi will be hosting a second night Zoom Passover from their family’s house. While most people might find their freedom restricted by “safer at home” orders at these times, I see it differently. The access to technology that connects us all even through these tough times proves that we still have the freedom to continue our traditions together as a family and tell our story.

The only challenge I am facing now is that this is the first year I will actually have to be the one cooking. So I am going to put on my apron and end my blog post with the ending words of the Passover Seder: Next Year in Jerusalem! Next year may all the people be free!