18 April 2017
Passover, Pesach, what does it really mean beside the evident celebration and retelling of the exodus from Egypt?
Currently living outside of London I am not only the token Jew among my friends; for many of my colleagues and people I meet aged 22 to 62, I am the first person they have known to be Jewish and it lands on me to explain this time of year. I tell them of the exodus, the rush to flee and thus the bread not rising.
Yet this is where many tune out, seeing it all to be ‘a bit too Old Testament to mean anything today’. To these comments I respond by saying it means more to me today than it ever has before.
Passover celebrates freedom and family, while providing us with so many opportunities for discussion and thought. As we celebrate the freedom granted to our ancestors, we cannot hide from the fact that so many men, women and children are still denied their basic freedoms, let alone the ongoing battles for racial and gender equality.
As a young Liberal Jew, undecided on the specifics of my religious beliefs, I embrace this week as a physical and mental challenge, as a way to reconsider and redirect my everyday thoughts and practices.
Passover has become a time of practicing gratitude for me, not just towards our exodus from Egypt but for the fact that I live in a country where I have the liberty to observe the holiday, educate my peers on it and openly call myself Jewish.
It has proven insightful in terms of food habits. By avoiding chametz and kitniyot – and frankly struggling – I have come to realise how what I thought of as a fairly average, but healthy, diet actually relied heavily on processed refined foods. This has made me not only eat better this week but also helped me to rediscover my joy of cooking, while making me feel closer to nature with every bit of its produce I enjoy.
Besides the religious and cultural food practices of the festival, I feel being able to share Passover with those around you is key. As much as I have appreciated the interest of my friends learning about it, it is certainly not the same as sitting down with the family to some matzah ball soup.
However, fear not! Despite being in my university house, with much studying to catch up on, I was still able to share a unique and lovely Seder with my sister in London thanks to the Internet. Thanks to video chat, I was only a tap away from a loved one’s smile… and terrible singing.
Now I’ll be honest, it was not quite the typical Seder; yet despite us being at stages in our lives where we live apart and can’t always get together, the Seder plates made at cheder (pictured above) all those years ago were lifted onto camera, appreciated by both no matter the many miles apart. We compared what we each had access to and between the two of us we made it work.
Haphazard though it may have been, collaborating, making the best of it together rather than dwelling on our distance apart made this perhaps the most meaningful Seder in my 22 years.
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