Saturday, April 18, 2009

Passover in Mexico

Tradition! (Can you hear the sound of Fiddler on the Roof?)

In a Mexican frame of mind, we prepared for Passover. We combined family traditions and items from home with substitutions and transitions in Mexico.

Passover is the 8 day Jewish holiday of freedom. The Passover Seder recounts the Book of Exodus at a very fun and festive meal celebrated with stories, songs and prayers.

The Seder
is celebrated especially for the children. It is important for Jewish children to be and feel involved in the celebration of Passover. Much of the ceremony is based on the commandment in the Bible that says, "And thou shalt tell thy son."

Here are the highlights of our Seder

Horoset: The night before, Oldest Son, Youngest Son and Husband make horoset with apples, red wine, almonds (substituted for pecans), matzah (brought from USA) and black raisins (substituted for golden raisins and dates.), sugar, cinnamon and lime (for lemon.) They have been doing this since the boys were born.

Place Cards: Youngest Son uses his artistic talents to make place cards with dot paints, ink stamps, stickers and love.

Flip Charts: In our 1st Passover Seder years ago, Husband made flip charts (reading right to left of course) to help our non-Jewish guests follow along. Husband’s Aunt and Aunt’s Friend, both Christian, were the perfect audience.

.... 10 Plagues: How many ways can you show the 10 plagues? Oh so many …

Seder Plate: Our Fish Platter suffices as we patch together all the Seder necessities.

Haggadah: For the first time, Oldest Son reads and leads the Passover Seder using his children’s Haggadah and marked with post-it notes just like Husband's. The Haggadah stresses the importance of the Seder as "a spectacle meant to excite the interest and the curiosity of the children." Everything in the Seder is meant to make the children curious and to ask questions.

Exodus: In addition to the telling of the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt via the Seder, Oldest Son and Youngest son perform the entire story in costume. Oldest Son’s turn to be Moses this year and Youngest Son is oppressive as Pharoah. I, of course, am the narrator.

Elijah: We always set a place for Elijah in hopes he will join our Seder. Mysteriously Elijah seems to speak to us from behind the bamboo … wait where are the kids? Oh my, Elijah drank his glass of wine? Really?

Hillel Sandwich: One of my favorite Passover foods is the Hillel Sandwich made with matzah, horoset and shredded horseradish. Shredded horseradish can not be found in Mexico so the horseradish mayo substituted beautifully. The Hillel Sandwich represents "bricks-and-mortar" -- broken matzah held together by bitter herbs and haroset. The matzah was once whole. So too, the Jewish people can become crushed and divisive. But we are held together by our common links to Torah and our shared historical experiences. Hillel (born in Babylon) was a famous Jewish religious leader and one of the most important figures in Jewish history. He is popularly known as the author of: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?")

4 Questions: At the Seder it is the youngest child at the table that answers the 4 questions asked at Passover. Youngest Son answers these questions with his finger puppets to help!

1st: On all other nights we eat all kinds of breads and crackers... Why do we eat only matzah on Pesach? Matzah reminds us that when the Jews left the slavery of Egypt they had no time to bake their bread. They took the raw dough on their journey and baked it in the hot desert sun into hard crackers called matzah.

2nd: On all other nights we eat many kinds of vegetables and herbs.... Why do we eat bitter herbs, maror, at our Seder? Maror reminds us of the bitter and cruel way the Pharaoh treated the Jewish people when they were slaves in Egypt.

3rd: On all other nights we don't usually dip one food into another.... Why do we dip our foods twice tonight? We dip bitter herbs into haroset to remind us how hard the Jewish slaves worked in Egypt. The chopped apples and nuts look like the clay used to make the bricks used in building the Pharaoh's buildings. We dip parsley into salt water. The parsley reminds us that spring is here and new life will grow. The salt water reminds us of the tears of the Jewish slaves.

4th: On all other nights we eat sitting up straight.... Why do we lean on a pillow tonight? We lean on a pillow to be comfortable and to remind us that once we were slaves, but now we are free.

The 4 Sons: Each "son" asks a question regarding the meaning of the Passover Seder. Oldest Son was the Wise Son (of course) and can you guess which was Youngest Son? We hand out "son" hats and each Seder guest reads the following:

The Wise Son asks, with genuine intellectual curiosity: "What is the meaning of the statutes and laws that G-d has commanded?" The wise son seeks to understand the essence of the laws. In modern times, the wise son is the truly unique student, who eschews his own ego and is only concerned with grasping the truth. Yet even with a rare mind like his, the wise son must be positively challenged rather than pampered.

The Wicked Son is intentionally vague when he haughtily asks: "What is this service to you?" To you being the operative phrase, since the wicked son is choosing to separate himself from the Jewish community. In today's day and age, the wicked son is a metaphor for children who are more concerned with fitting in than honoring their family's values. With the right educational approach, a "wicked" son could easily be turned into a "wise" one.

The Simple Son asks plainly: "What is this?" While the simple son is definitely not an intellectual, he has a kind and generous heart. He is asking questions because he wants to do the right thing. But his understanding of Judaism - and life in general - comes from experience, not from books. In today's day and age, the simple son is the energetic, highly active student, who needs a more kinetic-based approach to learning. To grow as a thinker, the simple son must have all of his senses engaged in the learning process.

Finally, the fourth son is the one who does not know how to ask. He is not a simpleton - he is apathetic. He's so laid back he doesn't even care. In modern times, the fourth son represents the student who cares far more about his Game Boy than his studies. Not only does the fourth son not care, he doesn't even listen. The challenge is to turn his heart - to turn him on and tune him in to learning.

The Four Sons live in all of us: Sometimes we are genuinely searching, other times we are rebelling; sometimes we connect through our heart first, then our head, and other times we are just too tired, stressed or burned out to care anymore. The lesson of the Four Sons is to appropriately nurture that spark for learning that lives within all of us.


Steve Cotton said...

Thanks for the great summary. I have missed your posts. We will be through your area on Monday, and would like to get together. My email is gopjiggs at gmail dot com

Theresa said...

AMM, this was beautifully written. I believe that family traditions are the glue that binds us together. You have a wealth of traditions to draw on and you do a wonderful job of making them vital and alive for your sons. Wonderful.
On another note, we have pecans here (in Merida),but they are simply called nuece (nut), I guess because they don't have another name unlike almonds and hazelnuts. Dates (datil)and golden raisens are also available here, sometimes at Costco but all year round at a specialty market because we have a large Lebanese community. It's interesting how different foods are more available in different communities unlike the tremendous variety available nob. I love how you are teaching the boys flexibility by finding substitutes.

On Mexican Time said...

Your kids will most definitely THANK you when they are older. For giving them, and teaching them a tradition!

I'm not Jewish, however, found the post very educational and interesting! Thank you!

Bob Mrotek said...

I learned more about the Passover feast from your post than I have ever learned before. You are a teacher. Thank you!

American Mommy in Mexico said...

S - I am in USA :( - perhaps a meal with Husband and Sons?

T - Thanks for the comment on the writing. I am not highly skilled so appreciate positive feedback. Judiasm makes tradition easy - so much. It is odd indeed. Our biggest concern was the horseradish - was thrilled we found the mayo.

OMT - I hope these Jewish traditions are part of their identity. So glad the post was interseting and informative.

BM - the highest of compliments coming from you - I hold you as the gold standard for teaching!Really.

Constantino said...

Thank God you are keeping up tradition!
One of the problems that we now see is the value system disintegrating, passing on the tradition and values is one way to prevent that!

Bless You!

Your children are truly fortunate.

Leslie Limon said...

I think it is truly amazing that you are continuing to teach your children their Jewish traditions and customs while living in Mexico. I know that it cannot be easy, being that Mexico is 99.9% Catholic!!! Your efforts are truly admirable!

On another note, I'd like to invite you to visit my