For the second time in a few months, I was asked by my editor to submit a column covering my thoughts and perspectives on a major Jewish holiday. The first piece, The puzzle of passing down faith, was published on December 24th (read it here). My column on Passover was published in today's London Free Press.
The column is entitled Passover marks journeys old and new, and it can be found here. I've also pasted it below:
Passover marks journeys old and newYour turn: No matter what holidays you celebrate, how do you get your kids excited about them? How do you ensure traditions are successfully passed down to the next generation?
Published Saturday, April 15, 2006
The London Free Press
Byline: Carmi Levy
MONTREAL, Que. - Passover, like so many Jewish holidays, is ultimately about a journey. It is a story that, although its roots are thousands of years old, continues to resonate in the lessons we teach our children today.
In its most outward guise, Passover, which started Wednesday at sundown and runs through next Thursday, commemorates the exodus of Jews from generations of slavery in Egypt.
It is perhaps best known as the holiday during which we're not allowed to eat bread. Instead, we eat matza.
During the Jews' hurried escape into the desert, they did not have time to wait for their bread to rise.
To keep one step ahead of pursuing Egyptian soldiers, they ate it flat and crisp. We remember their flight by eating matza today.
The Jews wandered in the desert for 40 years before finally making it to the land of Israel.
Passover commemorates the journey on a number of levels: the physical journey, the spiritual journey from an oppressed to a free nation, and the personal journey we take as we lead our own lives within our community.
Passover's rituals and rules are rich with stories like these. Our modern-day, tech-savvy kids are fascinated by what life must have been like for their ancestors, and how the learnings from that time are remembered in their actions today. It allows us to reinforce that these seemingly dry traditions of their heritage really do mean something to them.
Our children have been looking forward to Passover for weeks. After learning about it in school, they've come home virtually every day asking my wife what she's going to make them when Passover arrives. Visions of Mom's "Famous Sponge Cake" have been dancing in their heads.
The switchover to matza means no bread in the house for the entire holiday. It means our kids get to eat foods that wouldn't otherwise make it onto the menu the rest of the year. Our normally-picky children seem to step out of character as they eat things they normally wouldn't touch.
We had plenty of time to discuss the meaning and lessons of Passover while driving to Montreal earlier this week. The strength of family sits at the very core of Jewish life, and my wife and I have tried to use holidays to bridge the physical distance between our kids and their grandparents.
The kids bubbled with excitement all the way here, wondering what their bubby (grandmother) had cooked for them. They needn't have worried: Pretty much every food in my mother-in-law's kitchen made it to the table that first night.
Much of the holiday's focus revolves around the Seder, the ritual meal held the first two nights of Passover. Seder is the Hebrew word for order. By following the story of Passover through the Haggadah, we retrace a ritual that hasn't changed in thousands of years. Everyone takes turns reading passages from the book as we gradually work our way through the story of the holiday. Our kids' eyes light up when they realize Mom and Dad and their grandparents have been performing the Passover Seder since they were children, too.
This year, our eldest son, Zach, 11, participated in the reading for the first time. Although he is normally quite reserved, he came alive as he shared in the experience with his family. Dahlia, 8, also jumped in, carefully reading the sometimes-arcane ancient language.
My wife and I watched them with pride, knowing that this marked another step on their own journey to adulthood, to staking out their place in a chaotic, difficult-to-navigate world.
The Passover Haggadah offers them the structure and guidance to make it through the Seder in a phased, methodical manner. Not every holiday comes with a ready-made manual, and certainly few things in life are so well documented.
But for this phase of our children's journey, they had all the guidance and help they needed.