Passover is one of my favorite holidays. It is a time to bring family and friends together and celebrate the journey from slavery to freedom: a symbolic journey that we all need to take as we ground our spirituality into the practical realities of everyday life. No matter what religion you embrace, this concept is true for all of us.
Since my passion is sharing cross-cultural rituals with the world, I thought it would be appropriate to share some of my family traditions with all of you.
Lighting the Candles: to bring light into areas where we are in darkness and denial
Drinking 4 cups of wine: dedicating each cup to our ancestors and gratitude for life
Releasing with water: as we ritualistically wash each others’ hands (Rachel welcomed strangers by her well), we look at what we want to release emotionally, physically and mentally. And we dip hard boiled eggs in salt water (representing the tears shed when we were slaves in Egypt). Yet for me water is purification and the ability to change states of consciousness. Even in the midst of chaos, sadness and despair, we can transform into joy and compassion.
Connecting to the Ancestors– In my women’s rituals, we introduce ourselves by our mother’s lineage: here we introduce ourselves by both our mother’s and father’s lineage. It is a way to remember our connection to our ancestors. For example, I say “I am Barbara, daughter of Diana and Julie, granddaughter of Rachel and Samuel and Abraham and Rachel.” It always saddens me when people do not know the names of their ancestors. This ritual helps us remember where we came from.
Making a commitment to make the world a better place: each person gets a chance to share how they will contribute (even the children) —by volunteering, becoming better listeners, having more compassion, sharing resources and an active Tikkun olam, or taking action in the world.
Remembering: In the traditional seder we remember the plagues that God sent to the ancient Egyptians- in our seder we acknowledge these and the plagues that still ravage our world: pollution of the earth, greed, violence, war, anger, fundamentalism, injustice.
And of course there is the food: my brother Mark grows and makes the horseradish (the bitter herbs), I am known for my matzot ball soup and horoset (nuts, apples and dates) other friends cook, bake and contribute with wine and fruit. One of the newer rituals I love is to have an orange on the table to represent the feminine. However, in today’s world, it now stands for anyone who has been marginalized. Each person eats a segment and then spits out the seeds as a gesture of the harshness of some fundamentalist views, including racism, misogyny and homophobia (Haggadah for Jews and Buddhists)
But it all comes down to friendship, generosity of spirit and hope for a future filled with freedom, peace and justice for all.
May we all be grateful for the opportunities we have to grow and learn
May we be grateful for the bounty of the Earth
May we be grateful for a time of new beginnings
May we honor our family and friends as the precious gifts they are
May we all learn from each other and become more compassionate and conscious
Have a beautiful holiday!