So last night was Passover first night, and Max decided to finally do what he’s been muttering about for more than nine years and get going with the Jewish education. (Fine with me; I grew up with little religion, or, rather, confused religion. My position: Go for it.)
But in our family, I am the one who calls places and schedules things and investigates programs and creates kid rituals. This is one area I can’t take the lead role. Therefore, we’ve seen fits and starts.
Until last night. Max put together the plate–a boiled egg, parsley, a roasted bone and a “haroset”, a mix of apples and nuts and honey–he assembled the yarmukles, he bought a book to read the service from that was (somewhat) geared toward kids. The only thing he forgot was candles; we found one skinny candle, too slender for a holder, so he fashioned a ball of old crusty playdoh and stuck the candle in it.
Alex paid close attention to Max’s words. Nora just kept griping about the fact that she doesn’t do grape juice, thank you very much. (Kids drink grape juice whenever adults have to sip the wine) At the end of the dinner, when we opened the door for Elijah to come in and drink the wine, she freaked out over inviting a ghost into the apartment as if we were trying to reenact “Saw II.”
But when Max read the Passover history, the story of Moses and freeing himself and the Israelite slaves–it hit me. This stuff is OLD. I mean, obviously Jewish traditions are old. But here we are, commemorating an escape from Egyptian slavery that historians believe occurred in some form about the year 1800 BC.
Christianity took off some two milleniums later. And the big Christian holidays are a bit of a patchwork. Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, but the tree comes from German pagan tradition. Easter is about Jesus rising from the dead, but the eggs being painted and hidden comes from a bizarre mix of Roman and Celtic celebrations. I researched Easter when I was in charge of the food section at a women’s magazine (not the recipes, I hasten to add, just the writing about the food and the holidays). I came up with this (I thought) fascinating sidebar box on the history of the Easter egg hunt but my editor in chief had it mangled and cut because her born-again Christian readers could be offended. (“Jesus didn’t decorate Eggs? I’m canceling the subscription, Henry!”)
The Passover story and the sipping of the wine and the dipping herbs in salty water and leaving the door open for Elijah….no, there aren’t little bits picked up along the way from some Viking tribes in 400 AD. It seems pretty pure to me. Talk about antiquity.
And in our candle-in-the-playdoh way, we tried yesterday to keep moving it forward.