Jewish community remembers Passover traditions and memories
SUNCOAST NEWS STAFFPassover is an 8-day commemoration of freedom over oppression and remembering good times gone by.
Published: March 31, 2007
Published: March 31, 2007
Those of Jewish heritage have their own special memory of Passover, which this year begins at sundown on Monday, April 2. The holiday falls on 15th day of the month of Nissan on the Hebrew calendar.
Most can recall their most memorable Seder, a family gathering during the first two days of the observance. It includes a lavish dinner with lively traditional songs, prayers and a retelling of the Exodus story.
Passover - Pesach in Hebrew - commemorates the Israelites struggle against enslavement in Egypt by King Pharaoh 3,319 years ago.
With help from the Lord casting numerous plagues, the Children of Israel were eventually freed by their Egyptian captors. They left so quickly on their Exodus through the desert to the promised land that bread dough in their provisions did not have time to rise. This gave birth to the large cracker-like holiday treat called matzah, made from flour and water.
Jews observe the anniversary of this Exodus by removing food made from grain from their homes for eight days. During that time no food or drink made from wheat, barley, rye or oats is eaten.
Each part of the Passover prayer book, the Haggadah, has spiritual significance that emphasizes the holiday's meaning that transcends boundaries of time and place.
The Haggadah, formulated by ages of sages, leads Jewish people all over the world through the same spiritual experience.
For example, during the Seder everyone munches on matzo with bitter herbs to remember the bitterness of slavery. Eggs or parsley with salt water is also eaten to remember ancestral tears.
Children at Seder all over the world ask the same four questions to learn why this night is different from all other nights.
For Rabbi Levi Hodakov, program director of Young Israel-Chabad of Pinellas County, a Lubavitcher Hasidic congregation on Fisher Road, in the Palm Harbor area, his thoughts reflect on a large family Seder held by his grandfather, an orthodox rabbi in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn, N. Y.
He has fond memories of everyone eating together, praying, singing and remembering the message of the Passover story.
Rabbi Shalom Adler, co-director of Young Israel-Chabad, was born on Passover. There are many messages one can gather from the Passover story, he said. It is a story about freedom from tyranny and oppression.
An individual can think about how returning to God can cast off one's personal tyranny and oppression of the mind, he says.
Miriam Hodakov, Rabbi Hodakov's wife, said she has very early memories of attending Seder as a young child with the excitement felt opening the door to see if the prophet Elijah would visit.
Chanie Adler, Rabbi Adler's wife, said she recalls how much fun her early Seder were, staying up late, with children participating by asking the four questions that retell the Passover story.
Rabbi Alan Goldberg, spiritual leader at Congregation Beth Tefillah, a Conservative Judaism synagogue at the Jewish Community Center of West Pasco, in Port Richey, remembers attending his first Seder when he was only about 3 years old.
That first Seder was at the home of his grandfather, Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Morris Goldberg, in Manchester, England.
Rabbi Morris Goldberg lived in an English manor in which there was a 40-foot-long table around which the Goldberg clan gathered for the Seder meal.
"He put on a white gown," Goldberg remembers about his grandfather. "He went through the service explaining everything in detail."
When he grew older, Goldberg was able to recite the questions that Jewish children traditionally ask during the Seder service.
"You feel very important," he noted. "All eyes are focused on you. It's a big deal."
Later, during the World War II years, the rabbi would bring home soldiers to celebrate Seder with the family in England.
Rabbis of the Lubavitcher branch of Hasidic Judaism say the modern-day Passover message is to defy one's own personal Pharaoh-like slavery inside. Realizing freedom and the promised land, akin to breaking free from whomever you are today and being a better person, is within everyone's grasp.
It is said Passover is a Jewish holiday even celebrated by non-observant Jews, most of whom attend a Seder.
Many dishes center around matzo during the week of Passover. A traditional dish is the Matzo Brie, which rhymes with rye, or fried Matzah.
A French-toast like batter of eggs, milk or water, and salt is prepared. Matzah is broken into pieces and soaked in batter until firm but soggy. The batter is then scooped out and placed in a frying pan, usually in round pie but sometimes pancake shapes, until it browns.
It is served with kosher-for-Passover jelly.
Another dish, Matzah Ball soup has become a year-round favorite. Matzah balls are made by mixing two eggs, oil and water together thoroughly, with ½ cup of matzah meal, parsley and salt to achieve an even consistency. The mixture must jell for a few minutes to allow the matzah meal to absorb other ingredients. Everything is stirred again.
Chicken soup, the main ingredient, is then brought to a slight boil. Small balls are made out of the matzah mixture, realizing they expand in the hot soup. They are gently dropped, not plopped, in the soup hoping for the best.
Young Israel of Pinellas will hold a community Seder this Monday, April 2, 8 p.m., for a suggested donation of $36 person for adults and $18 for children 3 to 12. For reservations call 727-789-0408 or visit the Web site www.yichabad.com.