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"Spring is here...The Seder Service" by Jackie K.
Spring is here. The longer, sunnier days bring us more time for those much needed therapeutic walks. Spring is also a time when Jews throughout the world prepare for Passover. Passover has great relevance for me as a healing but still grieving mother. It was three years ago at Passover that we lost our baby girl. Whenever this joyous holiday arrives it is with happiness through tears that allows me to reflect on the suffering and healing that Jews have had to struggle with throughout the ages. For Passover is the story of Jews enslaved in Egypt; how they were persecuted throughout their journey, how they were freed and how they are forever hopeful, but not forgetful of their difficult journey.
In preparation for the traditional dinner known as a “seder” we wash the holiday dishes, we clean the house, and we prepare many traditional foods. I will not elaborate on the fascinating history and traditions that we celebrate during Passover, but I will briefly share with you one very important element to the Passover seder.
It is custom for the woman of the house to prepare the seder plate. This plate contains Matzoh, maror, charoset, parsley, salt water and egg, and a shank bone. Each food or item has a different meaning and blessing. I remember my first seder after losing our daughter. It was especially difficult, for each item had such a strong connection to the way I was feeling about our loss.
When we dip the bitter herb into the salt water we are reminded of the tears of the Jewish slaves. I thought: “Will new life ever grow? Mine was taken away. I need not dip in salt water, I have ample tears.” I prepared the apples and nuts for the charoset (to remind us how hard the Jewish slaves worked in Egypt, the apples look like clay which the Jews used to make bricks for building the Pharaoh’s cities and palaces.) I felt like a slave myself. A slave to my anger, a slave to my body, and a slave to my overwhelming responsibilities.
There are many other traditions that bring emotional relevance. How incredibly sad that our daughter will never have the opportunity to ask the traditional question asked by the youngest child: “Why is this night different from all other nights of the year?” I will never see the magical delight in her eyes as she finds the Afikomen (hidden piece of matzoh) nor will I be asked with eager anticipation ,“When will Elijah come in to wish everyone a year of peace and freedom?” I will never hear her sweet voice singing the traditional songs, and I will never feel her tired head drop upon my shoulder while we all sit for hours on end at the table celebrating this very beautiful, very peaceful and treasured “coming of spring.” How I long for her. How I will even miss washing the grape juice stains upon her holiday smocked dresses. I can only hope she is with Elijah. -Jacqueline K., SHARE Atlanta 3/96
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