April 6, 2000
Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights?
Down on his luck, Barak faces one political blow after another
Although I've been attending Passover dinners from the time I was knee-high to a scrupulously set seder table, there's something I've never really thought about until recently: how does all this storytelling relate to me? Storytelling is the essence of Passover. We gather together to narrate how, more than 3,000 years ago, Moses miraculously led the Jews to freedom from slavery in Pharaoh's Egypt.
It's a wonderful story, with heroes to root for and bad guys to rail against. It's all part of experiencing what our ancestors endured. It's all part of the story. But come on, what's the link to my life?
When a Jew has a question, she asks a rabbi. I asked Rabbi Daniel Bouskila of Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel in Los Angeles what the story of Passover has to do with me as a modern Jew. Typically, he answered my question with a question.
"Did you know that by retelling the story of what happened thousands of years ago, it brings us closer together?" the rabbi asked.
"No," I answered. "How's that?" And typically, he answered my second question with a story.
A friend of his attended a seder which was being led by the patriarch of the family, a Holocaust survivor. Since it was such a sensitive subject, his family had been careful never to ask about his experiences. As he was reciting from the Haggadah, he came to a phrase that commanded fathers to tell their children about their lives, so they will better understand their heritage.
The man turned white, leaned back, and was utterly silent for several minutes. Finally, he exclaimed, "I think I have been a bad Jew." Everyone was perplexed. How could this kind, generous, religious man, who was greatly beloved by his family, think he was bad? He heaved a heavy sigh. "I have never told you what happened to me. I have never shared my experience." And so on this Passover he spent several hours relating the painful story, which his children, grandchildren and everyone in attendance will never forget.
And so I finally realized what the telling of the Passover story means to me. If we liken the Exodus from Egypt into the promised land --the trip which takes us from bondage to freedom -- to our sometimes sweet, sometimes painful journey through life, we realize how similar our lives are to those of our ancestors. And this Passover I will encourage my parents to tell us their stories, and maybe I will tell my children my story, and maybe others will tell their stories.
For if the point of the seder is to bring everyone closer together, then what more important story could everyone want to hear?
There are as many variations on charoset as there are ways of retelling the Passover story.
2 sweet apples, peeled, cored
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup large golden raisins
1/2 cup white figs,
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup walnuts, shelled
&'009;and chopped fine
1/2 cup ground almonds
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of cayenne pepper
2-3 tablespoons sweet red
&'009; Passover wine (more, if
Cover apples with lemon juice in bowl. Chop fruit and nuts by hand, or, if you prefer a paste, put in in blender or food processor. Stir in zest, sugar and spices; taste and adjust seasonings. Moisten with wine to make thick paste. Serves 6