Passover begins at sundown on Monday in millions of Jewish households. Many non-Jewish friends also will be welcomed at seders. Through food, readings, songs and actions—the wondrous liberating power of God is remembered and celebrated.
ReadTheSpirit has several Passover-related delights to share in this special season. Already, we published one story by Jewish writer Debra Darvick about the challenge of creating a children’s book called, “I Love Jewish Faces.”
Here is a second story from Debra about …
Passover as Creative Inspiration
By Debra Darvick
Soon Jews the world over will come together for what is most likely the favorite holiday of them all—Passover. It’s joyous; it’s filled with wonderful foods; friends and family come together sharing remembered traditions even as we create new ones; there’s singing, lots of singing. This March 29, Jews the world over will be reading and retelling the story of the Exodus from Egypt. The youngest at the table will ask the four questions. There will be a hunt for the afikomen—a small piece of matzoh hidden early in the evening for the little ones (and little ones grown big) to find. At Seders from Schenectady to Singapore, Jews will be united in a world wide web of shared history and ritual.
“Why is this night different from all other nights?”—the question asked by the youngest child present—launches the telling of the Passover story: enslavement by Pharaoh, ten plagues, liberation by God’s mighty outstretched hand. And while Jews everywhere will be retelling this story and engaging in the same ritual (the word Seder itself means order), Passover is different from all other nights because of the creativity and individuality it invites. Within the framework of the telling of the story, families are free to throw open the windows of their creative souls and bring the Passover story to life in whatever ways their hearts and spirits can imagine.
I have friends who have celebrated Passover in a tent—luscious fabrics secured to ceilings and walls for the evening. Some begin the telling seated in a circle on cushions and then move to the dining room for the festive meal that follows. Some leaders come to the table robed in white, as if ready to embark upon the desert trek that very night. Participants are invited to bring readings that are particularly meaningful. Family heirlooms are gently removed from tissue paper—the silk matzoh cover embroidered by an aunt; a grandmother’s candlesticks brought over from the shtetl; exquisite Seder plates of glass or silver and simpler charming ones made in nursery school. New recipes, culled for weeks before the Seder, are served to eager guests alongside the old favorites that taste of home.
Just as settings and contributions vary, so too does the Haggadah, the book used in the retelling of the Passover story. While the commandment against graven images tended to put a damper on Jewish art, creativity blossomed freely in the pages of the Haggadah. Readers of Geraldine Brooks’ “People of the Book” may be familiar with the legendary Sarajevo Haggadah, one of many illuminated Haggadahs preserved through the ages. Legions of artists, such as Marc Chagall and contemporary artist David Moss, have used the Passover story as inspiration.
We read in Torah, “Observe the Passover in the spring … for in the month of spring God took you out of Egypt.” It was no accident that Passover comes at the dawn of spring. From the darkness of slavery to the light of freedom; from the sleep of winter to springtime’s burst of color and scent; the sap rises in the spring and with it our spirits and creative juices.
Passover tells the tale of the greatest liberation in history. Maybe that is why it comes down through the ages as a holiday of creative liberation as well.
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