Passover Food Traditions


By Cantor Linda Semi

passoverfruitslicesOf all our holidays, I think Passover is the most home-centered one we have. None of the others require us to prepare our homes to the extent of this chag. While Jews have always been open to providing hospitality to the stranger – thanks to our patriarch Abraham – on no other holiday are we commanded to “let all who are hungry come and eat.” This is one of the first dictates in the story we read in our haggadah on seder night.

Shortly, I will be on my way to Israel to spend Passover with my family there. This is the fourth consecutive year I will make the trip and be surrounded by the love and fun of being with family and keeping our traditions going. Most of them have to do with food (is anyone surprised?), but it is part of the chag for us!

Although there are plenty of tasty delights in Israel, some of the items that I had as a child and which my children associate with Passover, are not sold in Israel. So, the annual search has begun for the sugar-laden fruit slices and chocolate-covered raspberry jells! A substantial quantity goes into my suitcase and is eagerly anticipated by my daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren, as well as their friends who are happy to get these tasty treats from America! The tradition continues; Pesach just isn’t right if my Israeli contingent does not have these sweets.

Of course, no surprise to my B’nai Emunah family, I also carefully bubble-wrap and then secure in Tshirts, a few bottles of slivovitz. It is eagerly anticipated by the adults I will see in Israel and, in addition to our four cups of wine, we begin our seder with a special l’chaim of the tasty plum brandy that is kosher for Passover. By the end of the chag, there seems to be not a piece of candy or drop of slivovitz left. After all, they are part of Passover there. Why should there be any left for the rest of the year?

Another thing I am shlepping along this year is a canister of Manischewitz matzah meal. I am charged with making the matzah balls and, at home, produce a decently edible item. In Israel, however, I have not been satisfied yet with my final product. Last year was a total disaster by my standards. My son-in-law and his friend, who are partial to “sinkers,” were ecstatic but I couldn’t even choke one down. I have convinced myself that it is the consistency of the matzah meal in Israel that is different from what I use here. So, I am packing the canister and am on a quest to redeem my culinary reputation! These are not the only traditions we have, but they are the most food-centric. The joy of welcoming spring and recalling our people’s greatest quest for freedom gladdens my heart each year as the haggadah is read and wonderful melodies are sung. The important thing is to be with others and to have fun, to question and learn, and realize that Judaism welcomes our being eager and inquisitive in every aspect of our lives.

I hope the tone of this article inspires you to have fun and to seek your own traditions. Search your hearts and minds; be ready to question on seder nights and to learn something new. Be open to what others have to say. Enjoy the eight days! Have a wonderful sweet and happy Pesach.

Cantor Linda R. Semi

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