As I age, words take on newer meanings. The words stay the same, but the conditions and applications change.
When I now think of Easter, I no doubt remember Passover.
As a kid, I remember perhaps being in third or fourth grade, and my daily ritual was to go to school and then after school in Detroit, I would walk to Hebrew school. (In Miami Beach I would also walk to the synagogue, and it was across the street from my school. There were basketball courts in the park between the two schools, and I honestly can’t remember if I actually made it past the basketball courts with any regularity?)
Looking back, Hebrew school was more like a religious day care. My most vivid memories were the constant push to do your part and buy a tree for our new country of Israel. This was the early 1960’s. We each had a work booklet that the rabbi would religiously record our weekly donations of quarters. As I remembered, it was maybe the aggregate of those quarters to add up to $2.00 and you would then get a sticker of a tree for your workbook, signaling you had done your part to support Israel. By buying a tree, MY name would be on that tree I was told! That was a big deal. I was very competitive. I had multiple pages of tree stickers and that had become well hidden in the recesses of my memory until my first trip to Israel. That memory resurfaced about a decade ago with the thought: I’m here in Israel, somewhere there’s a forest with my name on some trees… I was told there would be…. (images of evergreen Christmas looking trees, like the many stickers in my school workbook?) then thinking, sure Les, it was a sales pitch so don’t be a sap.
But I am competitive, and now I wanted to see if my rabbi gamed me or what?
So I asked the official tour guide assigned to our tour bus that lead tourist groups and are required to take extensive history lessons for a couple of years to give you the goods every time you ask a question… “Did Jesus really walk on this street near the nearby garden of Gethsemane?” So I asked, “So where’s the forest with all the trees with our nameplates?” Me thinking as a little wise guy, I must have my own mini Leslie from Detroit forrest? The guide laughed, “I don’t know about nameplates….Hadn’t heard that before but when we get near, I’ll point it out.”
So, I digress. Those are the memories. We went to Hebrew school to learn to read and speak Hebrew. Much more than that is a fog, and I wasn’t even keen about that. But, my father explained to me, “Leslie, I’m sure you’d rather be playing some kind of ball, but in a couple of years you’re going to be 13 and you need to have your Bar Mitzvah.”
Why? I don’t need one of those; I can’t seem to learn Hebrew and English is hard enough!
My dad was an accomplished negotiator, especially against a precocious pre-teen who knows when I’m overmatched. My dad offered, “That’s ok then you’ll be the only boy in the whole family who was not Bar Mitzvahed.” My dad was one of six siblings, and my mom was one of three siblings — so that’s nine kids, all with a slew of kids and cousins and the traditional Bar Mitzvah with a huge family and friends is a big payday score for a thirteen year old. I may have sucked at Hebrew, but I was an ace at math.
That leads to the one true family religious gathering: Passover, which always coincides with Easter.
The Passover Seder is the traditional Passover meal that includes reading, drinking four cups of wine, telling stories, eating special foods, singing and other Passover traditions.
As per Biblical command, it is held after nightfall on the first night of Passover (and the second night if you live outside of Israel), the anniversary of our nation’s miraculous exodus from Egyptian slavery more than 3,000 years ago.
The Passover Procedure
- ceremonial foods are all arranged on a platter, called a ka’arah or Seder plate. There may be one ka’arah for the entire Seder, or several.
- The procedure is all laid out in a book called a Haggadah. Although the text is in Hebrew (with a sprinkling of Aramaic), it is perfectly acceptable to read the Haggadah in translation if you don’t understand Hebrew.
Without question I’ve learned much more about Judaism through the Bible than the Torah, but I still cherish the customs and heritage.
Happy Easter everyone; He Has Risen! Hallelujah.
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