I had never been to a traditional Jewish Passover Seder, so when Kyra, our TSB food writer, offered to host (and cook) a Seder for all of our staff, I jumped at the opportunity. I wanted to learn more about Seder, the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Seder is the celebration dinner that begins the Jewish Passover. (See video below for Kyra's version of the Seder)
For those of you who might have forgotten, Passover is the commemoration of the protection of God as the Angel of Death passed over the home of every Hebrew family that was marked by the blood of the Paschal lamb. The first born son of the Egyptians, or of those whose home was not marked by the blood of the lamb, was killed by the Angel of Death. This was the final plague God visited on the Egyptians, following which Pharoah allowed Moses to lead his people out of Egypt.
Passover begins with the Seder dinner celebration and has been an annual event ever since Moses lead the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt. Seder, in the Jewish faith, is the celebration and of the freedom from bondage - it is giving thanks to God for deliverance and redemption.
Seder is also Bible Study. It is in this family setting that Jewish children participate and learn about their heritage. They learn the Old Testment story of Moses and their ancestors.
As we read the Haggadah, the Jewish text which describes the format of the Seder, and comes from the Torah command - "And you shall tell your children on that day...", I realized that experiencing a Jewish Seder truly is an enjoyable way to educate, to remember and to pass on the rich traditions that remain a part of the Jewish culture.
I was also reminded that we Christians still have a connection with our Jewish heritage. We often observe a Seder dinner on Maundy Thursday since that represents Jesus' last supper. As He was commanded to do by God, Jesus went back to Jerusalem to observe the Passover each year. Following what we now recognize as Palm Sunday, Jesus returned to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. This is widely recognized as the Last Supper where he commanded his followers to "do this in remembrance of me".
The Seder dinner is as Christian as it is Jewish. It is the focal point where we bring together our common heritage. We, as Christians, are also heirs of Abraham.
The menu for our Seder experience
A serving of salted herring - the salt represents the tears of the people who were bound up in slavery.
Greens (parsley or watercress, for example) represent new life of spring.
Matzah (the unleavened bread) in memory of the unleavened bread which the Jews ate when they were freed from Egypt. It reminds us of how the Hebrew people left Egypt in a hurry and did not have time to prepare for the trip. They had no time to bake their bread. They could not wait for the yeast to rise.
Haroset or a paste like substance made by combining nuts [walnuts], fruit [dates, apples, bananas or any others in any combination] with wine and cinnamon to remind us of labors of slavery and the making of mortar and bricks. Mixed together this looks like the mortar which the Hebrew slaves used in their servitude.
A small portion of horseradish to represent the bitterness of slavery.
A hard boiled egg also reminds us of the new life that grows in spring.
A bone (lamb shank preferred but chicken leg will do.) The lamb is a reminder of the Paschal lamb which the Hebrews sacrificed to God in remembrance of the night the Holy One passed over their houses.
Four glasses of Jewish wine. Spill a drop of wine from the cup at the mention of each of the plagues, a symbol of regret that the victory had to be purchased through misfortune visited upon God’s creatures, the Egyptians.
All: 1) Blood. 2) Frogs. 3) Gnats. 4) Flies. 5) Cattle disease. 6) Boils. 7) Hail. 8) Locusts. 9) Darkness. 10) Slaying of the First-Born.
Then the real dinner followed consisting of apricot chicken, potato kugel, asparagus and fruit salad. And, of course, an assortment of desserts.
Recipe from "The Best We Ever Ate"
Jewish Family Services