Having explored other Jewish festivals in the past year, it was time to explore Passover. I bought two Seder dinner tickets in Berkeley after discovering there was no room available at any Sacramento Jewish venues.
Upon entering I was welcomed by the diverse faces of the Berkeley community; a melting pot of peace. The table was dressed with ceremonial items of meaning. People sat around welcoming one another with big smiles and gestures of joy. This community was cultivated to include the gay and lesbian community, and is evolving to meet the spiritual needs of diverse souls coming from all walks of life.
Starting the first day of Passover, also landed on Friday evening this year. The shabbat candles were lit and music blessings carried our intention and spirits into the gratitude of creation and the ritualistic memorial of Passover. As the candles were lit I remembered and spoke the names of my friends and their mothers, for a blessing, miracles, and healing.
I sat at a table with a young couple and their two children. I was relieved when the mother briefly explained to her kids what each item and blessings was for. This also was new to me, and I was grateful for the non-pretentious atmosphere of curious children celebrating their generation of Judaism in a diverse and welcoming community of peace.
The Rabbi shepherded us to our Haggadah book of ritual while we went through each ritualistic item of meaning. “Seder” means ‘order’ and that’s exactly what we did with each movement of memorial freedom of our ancestors. In between we sang Hebrew songs and chants, giving gratitude to Adonai and the prophets who brought us to the other side of enslavement, into freedom.
Four cups of wine and the abundant blessings of it, filled our wine glasses as we took our imaginations back to the time of Moses, Egypt, the exodus of a cruel Pharaoh and connected our hearts around the Seder plate of memory.
Tasting each item, I felt empathy for the Jewish people of that time. Over centuries the Pharaohs had become scared and jealous of the success and growing number of the Hebrew people and enslaved them into cruel labor without mercy. And ultimately put a decree to kill all new born boys.
I tasted the tears of our ancestors as we dipped our Karpas (Parsely) into a bowl of salt water. The fertility and spring arrival by the visual symbol of the egg, crossed over many traditions who also include the egg for spring celebrating and festivals of abundance. I didn’t realize the bitterness of enslavement was a goop of pink that I thought was sweet. I took a big bite and felt my sinuses on fire! It’s very bitter and hot horseradish. Good thing there was sweet wine to take the burn of learning away.
The breaking of the Matzah cracker held so much meaning. When the Hebrews fled Egypt, there was no time for the bread to rise. So they took uleavened bread, as they escaped into the desert that led them into the Red Sea.
Breaking the Matzah cracker symbolized breaking through from poverty into newer times of growing abundance. Before we moved onto the next item, the Rabbi spoke about refugees and their gift to our world. She mentioned the story of a wonderful man fleeing from Ethiopia to Minnesota. He earned his education and began washing dishes and several hard labor jobs and eventually started a transportation business. He now employs over 100 people and is one of the most successful transportation business owners in the state.
Refugees and immigrants from other countries fleeing war are not a drain on our economy. Instead they come with zealous dreams of passion and work to fill the deficit of needs that many of us Americans may not have been aware of. The Jewish people, as many other groups of people, know the struggle and challenge of being expelled from a land and forced to travel without a home as refugees and immigrants looking for hope and the freedom of a home.
As we went through each item on the Seder plate, the Rabbi ended with the meaning of the newest item; the orange and the Wedge of inclusion. The Reform movement of Judaism has worked to include the Gay and Lesbian community. When opening the orange, every person around the table took a wedge.
We each said a group of people that have been excluded and needed a voice. The originator of this ritual, spoke to the representation of widows and their need for a voice in the community.
Although I am not comfortable speaking in front of others, I felt compelled to address the issues of Palestine. In addition to speaking about those who come from a different and expansive background of Native American Shamanism, as my self, I want to give a quiet voice to my friends and family in Palestine.
I dedicated this Passover to the prayer movement of peace in Palestine. The Arab people of this country have gifted me with a few individuals who have changed my life perspective and caused me to grow in leaps and bounds. Their support as my best friends has taken me to the outer limits of my fears and walked me into greater heights of success.
Above all, when I say the Palestinians, as I hold my orange wedge of inclusion, I express my small voice with the utmost respect, care and desire for peace for my small Arab family to succeed.
All people deserve their right to provide for their children, to have land belong to them with out the fear of violence and being expelled from it and be forced to live the painful journey of the refugee. For me, the most intelligent, caring and supportive individuals have come from Palestine. Holiness and places of worship belong to all people. Politics is numb to the simple farmers who make a living by the provision of earth.
After we each stated the groups of people we wanted to include, we ended with a prayer of peace. My soul felt filled with gratitude. I’m blessed to be able to explore different belief systems and my ancestry that makes me who I am. The needs of people are always changing and evolving. I love that this community embraces that and works to change itself by having one foot in the old of traditional rituals and the other foot in new initiatives of change.
I pass you a wedge of my orange from my Seder plate. Who do you choose to name and include this year? 🍊
Happy Passover and Shalom to all.🕊
A video summary of this lovely Passover night.