In the opening act of Fiddler on the roof, Tevye and the other characters sing about the importance of tradition in their daily lives. While more than a hundred years have gone by since its setting in 1905, tradition remains important. It’s important to all of us, for so many reasons. Traditions are one of the many ways in which we pass on our joint knowledge of who we are as people. This week, I’d like to share some of my traditions.
Last week, in innumerable jewish homes around the whole world, families sat down for the Pesach Seder – the ritual, festive, meal of Passover. The Seder is explicitly meant to be an arena where we teach our children about our history. The relevant quote from the torah (Exodus 13:8) goes as follows:
The celebration of the holiday is centered around children, and our children have important roles to play. Sometimes as questioners (as they read Ma Nisthana (lit. “what differentiates”) where they ask why this night is different from others, sometimes as recipients of knowledge and tradition, and sometimes as archetypes.
The seder plate, together with the matzah, forms the centerpiece of the seder table, and comprises six elements that are laden with symbolism. This year, ours looked like this:
- The zeroah – bone – represents the paschal offering in the temple
- The beitzah – egg – represents the pre-holiday offering in the temple
- The maror and chatzeret – bitter herbs – (on my plate the grated horseradish (mixed with some beetroot juice) and radish) reminds us of the bitterness of slavery in Egypt
- The charoset – paste – represents the mortar and brick made by the jews as they toiled in the slavery of the Pharaohs
- The karpas – vegetable – alludes to the backbreaking work of slavery
Traditions matter. They are bearers of identity and community, and I am truly happy to be able to pass this one on to my children.