Passover Seder – Kibbutz Eyal

Passover (Pesach, in Hebrew), is one of the most important religious holidays in Judaism. It spans about a week and commemorates not only Moses and the Exodus story, but also (as much Ulpan teacher put it), the entry of the Jews into Egypt as a family (Joseph), and their exiting as a nation. The term “passover” comes from the tenth plague: the death of all the Egyptian first-borns. The Jews painted the blood of a lamb over their doors to signify to the spirit of the God to spare (or “pass over”) them.

On the eve of Passover Jews hold the Passover Seder, a feast marking the beginning of the holiday. Most Jews observe similar customs during their seders, including eating matza (unleaven bread – leaven bread is prohibited), drinking four cups of wine, and eating symbolic foods. Passover on a kibbutz (see next post), is a little different. Although the story and religious significance is the same, many kibbutzim (Eyal included), are secular, so increasing significance is put on agriculture and Spring. I was invited to Kibbutz Eyal for their Passover Seder (if you’re interested in the traditional, religious Seder, go Wikipedia it), and it went something like this:

The dining hall was arranged a bit like Fleming, with long rows of tables where different families would sit:

The evening started with the children bringing in the harvest (wheat), and setting it in front of everyone.

The choir then begins to sing about the coming of Spring and the harvest

The religious traditions then begin with the youngest child asking theĀ Mah Nishtanah, (in song) or why this night is different from all the other nights:

And the people answer (in song) and begin to sing about the story of Moses and the Exodus and read from the Haggadah (a Jewish text about Pesach):

Then begins the best part of the night…

The Passover feast involves a lot of food and a lot of symbolism. A plate with six items (4), is placed on each table and each of the items represent part of the Exodus story. The maror and chazeret are two bitter herbs representing the bitterness of the slavery in Egypt. The charoset is a sweet fruit paste representing the mortar and clay used by the Jews to build buildings in Egypt. The karpas is a vegetable (usually lettuce or celery) is dipped into salt water and eaten, representing freedom. The zeroa is usually a chicken wing, representing the animal sacrifice given in the temple, and the beitzah is a boiled egg representing festival sacrifice at the temple. We didn’t really eat any of this.

To start the actual dinner we had a fish(ball?) appetizer (1), and matza with chicken liver spread (5, 6). Then to really start the dinner we had matza ball soup (7) and then the main course of everything that can be eaten that’s still kosher (8): that’s chicken, beef, duck, potatoes, salads, fruits, etc. For dessert we had cake (again no leaven bread so it was made out of matza flour), and fruit (10, 11). And throughout the meal and the ceremonies we had a lot of wine. During Pesach Jews are obligated to drink four (full) cups of wine, symbolizing the promises of God: “I will bring out,” “I will deliver,” “I will redeem,” and “I will take” and are drunk at different times during the ceremony. Also you can drink whenever you want and are even encouraged to do so.

During the dinner the elders hide a small piece of matza (called the afikoman) for the children to find (and whoever finds it wins the prize – which is I’m told, pretty good (like a bike or something)). But in the kibbutz the prize is shared by everyone. This kid found the matza:

After the feast the event continued on with a skit retelling the story of the four sons in the Haggadah (wise, wicked, simple, and who does not know how to ask).

Then came a game with toilet paper where players had to unroll their roll according to the song (words on the toilet paper correspond to the lyrics), and whoever could unroll and roll the roll first wins. Don’t worry I’m still confused.

Next came another story about a chain of life (God defeats death defeats butcher defeats cow defeats water defeats fire defeats stick defeats dog defeats cat, defeats goat which is bought by money).

And last was an interactive song: Echad mi Yodea or “who knows one?” Every table has a number and has to stand up and sing along when their number is sung (we were number five (hamesh) and probably the least fun. Each number represents something (One is God, Two are the tablets of the commandments/covenant, Three are the Patriarchs, Four are the Matriarchs, Five books of the Torah, Six books of the Mishnah, Seven are the days of the week, Eight are the days of the circumcision (eight days after birth not an eight day circumcision), Nine months of pregnancy, Ten Commandments, Eleven stars in Joseph’s dream, Twelve tribes of Israel, and Thirteen temperaments of God. It was fun to sing along to but hard because the extent of my Hebrew goes to the numbers and some words here or there.

And the end of the night everyone was happy, stuffed, (some were drunk), and probably a little more Jewish. A lot of people told me that Pesach Seders were boring but the kibbutz was a lot of fun. It was different from what we learned to expect in ulpan and is a unique, but at the same time is the quintessential Jewish/Israeli experience I’ll only have once in my life.


~ by jonathanmtsai on April 19, 2011.

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