“Contrary to the belief of some, the Jews are a multiracial, multi-ethnic group. But it should not be surprising that Judaism’s 4,000-year-old creed spans geography as well as time, or that its message appeals to members of all races, on all continents.” ~Karen Primrack, Author, Under One Canopy
The Seder Table – Artist Lynne Feldman
The scattering of the Jews around the world over thousands of years, to nearly every continent, has meant that these traditions have evolved and been adapted to different cultures and settings. Here are some Passover traditions from around the world.
PASSOVER CELEBRATIONS AROUND THE WORLD
Ethiopian Jewish women making Matzoh
Destroying Earthenware Dishes: The Jews of Ethiopia strongly identify with the story of Exodus — and indeed, the first of the famous airlifts that delivered them to Israel was actually called Operation Moses. In some Ethiopian families, the matriarch would destroy all of her earthenware dishes and make a new set to mark a true break with the past. Ethiopian Jews had no Haggadahs, and read about Exodus directly from the Bible. Matzahs were homemade, often from chickpea flour, and on the morning of the seder, a lamb would be slaughtered. They also refrained from eating fermented dairy like yogurt, butter, or cheese
Whipping Each Other with Scallions
Jews living in Afghanistan developed the tradition of using scallions or leeks to stand for the Egyptian slavedrivers’ whips, using them to lightly “whip” each others’ backs. Jews have lived in Afghanistan at least since the Babylonian conquest 2,000 years ago, but in 2004 only two Jews were left in the country. It is now estimated that only a single Jew lives in Afghanistan, as the other died in 2005. The largest group of Afghan Jews in the world is comprised of 200 families in Queens, New York.
Re-enacting Crossing the Red Sea
Moses Parts the Red Sea. Ethiopian Jewish Embroidery Project: NACOEJ
Hasidic Jews from the Polish town of Góra Kalwaria, known as Gerer Hasids, re-enact the crossing of the Red Sea on the seventh day of Passover by pouring water on the floor, lifting up their coats, and naming the towns that they would cross in their region of Poland. They raise a glass at each “town” and then thank God for helping them reach their destination.
Every Passover, Jews prepare charoset, a sweet paste that can be made with fruits like dates, figs, and apples. The result is meant to remind sedergoers of the mortar in the bricks that Jewish slaves in Egypt used in their labor. In the British territory of Gibraltar, a tiny peninsula off Spain where Jews have lived for about 650 years, there’s a special recipe for charoset: the dust of real bricks, ground up and mixed in.
Tapping Guests on the Head: In a custom that began in Spain in the fourteenth century, the seder leader walks around the table three times with the seder plate in hand, tapping it on the head of each guest. Many Moroccan, Turkish, and Tunisian Jews adopted this tradition, which is said to bless those whose heads are tapped. This is sometimes connected to the Talmudic custom of “uprooting” the seder plate so that guests might ask questions about the Jews in Egypt.
Telling the Exodus Story in Costume: In many Sephardic traditions, (a term used to describe Jews originally hailing from the Iberian peninsula and North Africa), an elder member of the family enacts a skit in costume, posing as an ancient Jew who experienced the exodus from Egypt and describing the miracles he saw. In the countries of the Caucasus region, Iraq, Kurdistan, Yemen, and others, the seder (usually the head of household), would put the afikoman matzah in a bag, throw it over his shoulder, and use a cane to support himself. Sometimes a child participated, and there was a call and response with the table: “Where are you coming from?” “Egypt,” was the reply, followed by the story of the Israelites following Moses out of slavery. “And where are you going?” someone at the table would ask. “Jerusalem!”
Breaking Matzah into Hebrew Letters:
In the Syrian community, the custom of breaking the middle matzah on the seder table into pieces (known as yachatz) can sometimes take on Kabbalistic meaning. Matzah broken into the shape of the Hebrew letters “daled” and “vav” correspond to numbers, which in turn add up to 10, representing the 10 holy emanations of God. Jews from North Africa, including from Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, and Libya, break the matzoh into the shape of the Hebrew letter “hey,” which corresponds to the number five.
Inspecting Rice for Defects: Jews have lived in Cochin, in the Indian state of Kerala, for 2,000 years. In the tiny community that remains, Passover preparation begins immediately after Hanukkah, about 100 days beforehand. After Purim, Cochin’s Jews scrub their house of chametz (bread and any fermented grain) and repaint them, keeping special Passover dishes in a separate room. Wells are drained and cleaned for fear of chametz, and every grain of rice is inspected for defects that might let impure chametz in. Jews usually maintain warm relations with the larger community, but during Passover and the preceding months, they keep entirely to themselves.
Cooking with Wine from Elijah’s Cup
Many different customs surround the welcoming of the prophet Elijah, who is said to visit every seder. While Ashkenazi Jews (whose families came from Germany and later Eastern Europe) commonly leave a goblet of wine for the prophet, in Casablanca, Morocco, Jews would set up an elaborate chair with cushions and ornaments and leave it empty for Elijah’s arrival. And in Marrakesh, dishes are prepared using the wine from Elijah’s cup. Ashkenazi Jews often open the door to allow Elijah in, a tradition that wasn’t historically a part of the Sephardic practice.
Wearing White: Both Hasidic Jews and Moroccan Jews have the custom of wearing white to seder, possibly to signify joyfulness. Some Jews wear white on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, or on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, although this varies.
Displaying Gold and Silver Jewelry: Three passages in Exodus say that the Israelites received gold and silver from the Egyptians (for example, 12:35: “The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing”). Accordingly, Hungarian Jews had a tradition of putting all of their gold and silver jewelry on the seder table.
Tossing Pebbles in the Ocean
Among Moroccan Jews, Mimouna is celebrated the day after Passover with a generous feast of baked goods. Some say it marks Maimonides’ birthday, while others link it to the Arabic word for luck. A table is heaped with items symbolizing luck or fertility, many repeating the number 5, such as dough with five fingerprint marks or five silver coins. Fig leaves, live fish, stalks of wheat, and honey might also be included. In some parts of the Moroccan Jewish community, Jews entered the ocean and tossed pebbles behind their backs to ward off evil spirits. Original article here.
The Inside Story on Passover
In each one of us there is an Egypt and a Pharaoh and a Moses and Freedom in a Promised Land. And every point in time is an opportunity for another Exodus.
Egypt is a place that chains you to who you are, constraining you from growth and change. And Pharaoh is that voice inside that mocks your gambit to escape, saying, “Why change? How could you attempt being today something you were not yesterday? Don’t you know who you are?”
Moses is the liberator, the infinite force deep within, an impetuous and all-powerful drive to break out from any bondage, to always transcend, to connect with that which has no bounds. But Freedom and the Promised Land are not static elements that lie in wait. They are your own achievements which you may create at any moment, in any thing that you do, simply by breaking free from whoever you were the day before.
Last Passover you may not have yet begun to light a candle. Or some other mitzvah still waits for you to fulfill its full potential. This year, defy Pharaoh and light up your world, with unbounded light!
EXODUS by Bob Marley
Open your eyes and look within: Are you satisfied with the life you’re living?
Exodus! Movement of Jah’s people
GET A GUIDED MEDITATION FOR YOUR PASSOVER SEDER HERE:
Guided visualization actually is reported not to work with about 10% of people, some of us are simply hard wired for different forms of spirituality. I mention this so those who have this difference won’t wear themselves out trying.
For those who can benefit from guided visualization it is a very powerful spiritual tool. Several major medical research centers have discovered that it can even be a tool for active healing (called psycho-neuro-immunology), although this meditation is primarily designed for shifting consciousness.
Be sure to read slowly, with feeling and honor all the pauses fully, they are very important elements…like rests between the notes of a score.
Go down Moses, Way down in Egypt land.
Tell ole Pharaoh to Let My People Go!
Now when Israel was in Egypt land..Let My People Go!
Oppressed so hard they could not stand…Let My People Go!
So the Lord said: ‘Go down, Moses, Way down in Egypt land,
Tell ole Pharaoh to Let My People Go!’
So Moses went to Egypt land…Let My People Go!
He made ole Pharaoh understand… Let My People Go!
Yes, the Lord said ‘Go down, Moses, Way down in Egypt land
Tell ole Pharaoh to Let My People Go!
Thus spoke the Lord, bold Moses said: Let My People Go!
‘If not I’ll smite your firstborn’s dead’ Let My People Go!
Thus the Lord said ‘Go down, Moses, Way down in Egypt land
Tell ole Pharaoh to Let My People Go!’
Tell ole Pharaoh To Let My People Go
Moses in the Bulrushes by Mary Auld, Illustrated by Diana Mayo
Lavishly illustrated retelling of the Biblical story. Includes background information about the story, a useful word section and a section of questions to encourage further thought.
Ethiopian Jewish Embroidery-Making Matzoh for Passover – NACOEJ