Tag Archives: Passover

Still Celebrating Freedom: Passover 2016

By Edith Morgan
 
Passover is here again! We have all the regular spring cleaning tasks, all the preparations for this very important holiday, with all its multiple meanings and rituals, its special foods, its symbols and its reminiscences.
 
We  repeat the old story of the exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, and the ten plagues visited upon the Egyptians before the Pharaoh finally gave in and “let my people go” – a cry that has resonated throughout the  centuries, and  is still on the lips of so many who have not yet achieved freedom.  That theme has been set to music, put into books, and expressed in various art forms, with its inspiring plea that all can understand.
 
Much of the Passover symbolism has found its way into the practices of other cultures and religions: the very thorough cleaning that many households do at this time of year, the celebration in many ways of throwing off the yoke of cold weather, bare ground and the isolation of being shut up inside for months – all those things we share with many people who live north of the equator. 

But there are still some things that are unique to Passover, and the remembrance of the specifics of that time in Jewish history, and its parallels in modern time are still central to all the rituals performed  in Jewish homes at this time. 

As a child I remember the story of Moses and  the ten plagues visited upon the Egyptians to convince them to let the enslaved Israelites go.  I remember the story of how they wandered in the desert for so many years and finally reached the promised  land.  And of course, I remember the various symbols on the Seder plate: the lamb shank, the burnt egg, the parsley sprig, the horseradish, and, of course, the matzoh. My father was “reform,” which meant that he believed in a rational interpretation of most things. But those articles of faith that could not be easily explained he tried his best to make sense of. And of course there is always the belief that we still await the coming of the Messiah.

There are certain rituals that have a double function: the extra glass of wine in the table left there for the prophet Elijah, who is expected to come, and the open door to welcome him in – religious reasons, but also originating in the ghettos of Central Europe and designed to protect Jewish families from the fearful accusations that they used human blood to make the matzos.

The open door was the precursor of today’s “transparency” movement, in my opinion.

We are very fortunate in the U.S. that we do not have to take these kinds of measures to be safe in our homes; think, however, of the families in Israel, living near enemies who send 12-year-old girls with knives and explosives into their midst and who say they came to Jerusalem to “kill Jews.”

At least the Egyptians wanted free labor; today’s Israelites face an enemy who teaches its children hatred and murder, and glorifies such behavior. So, unfortunately, we have not improved our lot as much as I would like. And we still end our prayers with “Next year in Jerusalem” – in the fervent hope that finally that ancient city will be recognized as the capital of that nation, after 3,000 years of wishing and hoping and praying …

Springtime … new beginnings for Green Hill Park … and humankind?

By Edith Morgan

On March 20th, the calendar said that spring begins in these parts and, after a winter to remember, we watched as the mountains of snow slowly melted down;  again the roads were wide enough for two cars to pass, the pavement showed gray and black and passable, crews were out filling in the cracks and potholes left by the winter.

I live two houses down from Green Hill Park, and for over two weeks I heard the roar of heavy equipment: sawing and chipping and hauling away the wooded cover on the hill, leaving a few skinny trees, with daylight filtering through where before there was dense forest growth.

Muddy ruts and stumps mark the hillside, making the area look like a war zone.

But I have lived near the park long enough to know that Mother Nature is not so easily stopped.

While the habitat of this generation’s wildlife (the voles, skunks, squirrels, coyotes, wild turkeys – myriad other animals, small and large) have lost their homes and their cover, in two or three decades, the devastated hillsides will once again sport trees.

The old meadow on Denmark Street where we picked wild blueberries and strawberries so long ago, which was overrun by trees, is now once again nearly bare. But spring is here, and nature abhors a vacuum and will soon replant itself. Hopefully, the birds and wildlife will return, as they have so many time before, despite human depredations. And so, I am hopeful, and will go out and look for signs of life when the last snow is gone and the mud dries.

This is the season of spring holidays. We celebrate Passover and Easter at this time: both are festivals of new beginnings, celebrating the coming of the new and hopefully better beginnings for humans, at a time when nature is also coming back to life all around us.

Worcester does a big cleanup called Earth Day on Saturday, April 18!

Spring housecleaning is a yearly ritual. Jews clean for Passover, remove leavened foods, change to special dishes and, in a great many ways, remember and celebrate the exodus from slavery in Egypt three millennia ago by recalling the suffering of those days and celebrating the ultimate arrival in the promised land.

Christians celebrate the return of Jesus risen from the grave, and everywhere are seen the symbols of rebirth – the eggs, the flowers, chicks and bunnies for the children, and a spirit of renewal and hope pervades us all.

But as I look around our country, our world, I see too many people still mired in the winter of war, poverty, hatred and fear. Too many are still enslaved by their addictions, their hatreds and their irrationalities. How great it would be if this season of hope and appreciation for what we have could spread like a great contagion and envelop our world. Could the dove of peace have a chance to survive the constant assault of the hawks, eagles and vultures filling our skies?

I wish all our InCity Times readers joyous beginnings at this time! Happy Passover and Happy Easter to all!