The Passover ritual of the seder meal helps its participants to relive the Israelites’ terrifying transition from slavery to freedom in ancient Egypt. At the seder, eating the unleavened bread called matzah allows us to literally ingest this transitional experience. According to the Bible, the Israelites baked matzah because they had no time to bake regular bread as they fled Egypt on their way to freedom. Yet matzah is also called the bread of affliction and economic poverty that our enslaved ancestors ate in Egypt. When we Jews eat matzah we are trying to get a taste, actually and symbolically, of what it feels like to live with one foot in slavery and one foot in freedom. Hopefully, that makes us more appreciative of the meaning of both.
This is Passover, a holiday that comes straight out of the Bible, the Almighty commanding us to tell the story of the Exodus to each new generation as well as reminding ourselves. The Exodus, of course, is a story of freedom from slavery. The Biblical story is about the Hebrew exodus from slavery in Egypt. But we are very explicit about relating that story to the freedom of others.
Each Passover season for the past twenty one years, the Jewish residents of our region's group homes for developmentally disabled adults have been coming to our synagogue for a model Seder, or Passover meal, prior to the holiday. Our volunteers spend a long Sunday afternoon cooking, setting up our social hall, and serving between twenty five and thirty people and their overworked, underpaid aides. Over the years I have learned that some of the residents have families who look after them, yet some of them were abandoned by loved ones or forgotten in the family shuffles caused by aging, physical distance and death years ago. Their disabilities are a spectrum of severity, a variety of developmental delays, neuro-motor and communication disorders. From what their helpers tell me, our Seder is one of the highlights of their year. We welcome everyone as they come through the door. We play music and sing, we tell the story of the ancient Israelites' liberation from Egypt, we eat a nice meal together and we have fun. We are a noisy bunch performing a boisterous narrative about redemption for people whose voices, literally and symbolically, are imprisoned or extinguished.
WAMC's Ian Pickus and resident quizzer Mike Nothnagel slave through a pyramid of questions to celebrate Passover.
Last week's challenge Start with the phrase QUESTION JAR. Rearrange these eleven letters to spell a word that follows the word "hip" in a familiar two-word phrase, and another word that means, in a way, the opposite of "hip." What are the words? Answer: The words are JOINT and SQUARE.