Updating Passover Traditions
Passover this year, likely celebrated virtually with far flung relatives, will still be steeped in traditions old and new. Like, when I was growing up, I always knew that spring (and Passover) was in the air. There were the warming temperatures and blooming forsythias lining the houses of our suburban Long Island neighborhood. And the Passover preparations began. Windows got washed. The Maxwell House Haggadahs (the book that tells the story of Passover) came out of the closet. A six-box bundle of matzah appeared on the kitchen counter. My mother began collecting the symbolic items that made up the Seder plate. These were the traditions surrounding the Passover holiday in my home circa 1970. Fast forward to 2020 and, although the story of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt remains the same, we are now updating Passover traditions.
Updating the Haggodah
Actually, says Rabbi Dan Moskovitz, formerly of Temple Judea in Tarzana and now Senior Rabbi at Temple Shalom in Vancouver, families have always created their own rituals. In the 1970s, people may have photocopied song sheets or passages to read. Now websites like haggadot.com offer online resources for people wanting to personalize their own Haggadah. They also aid in adding readings, songs, artworks or blessings.
Cause-related symbols, which represent often marginalized groups in society, have found a place on many Seder tables. For those curious about adding a new piece to their holiday table, here are some ideas. For starters, the orange represents solidarity with the LGBTQ community. Secondly, the pineapple serves as a welcome symbol to refugees. Then, Miriam’s Cup, filled with water and placed adjacent to Elijah’s Cup, represents women’s role in the survival of the Jewish people. Another socially-responsible-minded add on includes an artichoke. With its bristly edges, in speaks to the acceptance of interfaith marriages amid the negative feelings about them. Olives, from olive branches, are placed on the Seder plate to highlight the desire for peace in the Middle East. Fair-trade coffee is yet another item to add to the Seder plate or meal. This symbolizes the story of slavery during Passover and as a reminder that slavery still goes on today. Rabbi Moskovitz equates the continuing trend to that of people wearing colored ribbons in support of particular causes.
Making the Seder meaningful and updating Passover traditions may mean adapting the old standards to create new rituals. Instead of asking the “Four Questions” that are part of a traditional Passover Seder, why not ask your guests what questions they might have and begin a discussion about today’s issues. How does the Passover story relate to our current space? Adds Rabbi Moskovitz, “If we want [religion] to remain relevant to us, it has to be our own and not that of our grandparents. We must be authentic inheritors and practitioners of our own traditions.”
The Futura Seder Plate pictured above is by Jonathan Adler, $150.