Contributions from Cameron Smith, Highline – Burien Rehab Technician
Passover represents a gathering holiday – it’s sort of like “Jewish Thanksgiving” in a way. We gather, we eat traditional foods and we recount the origin story of Passover.
Perhaps the most iconic food we eat during Passover is matzo, an unleavened bread – more like a cracker really – that is eaten not for enjoyment (because it’s not really that good…) but because of its place in the Passover story. As Jews were fleeing oppression in Egypt, long story short – we were slaves, we built the pyramids, there were plagues, etc., they did not have time to cook and bake. As a result, they ate matzo. Today we eat matzo and refrain from chametz – basically any grain that takes longer than 23 minutes to rise or cook. Why 23 minutes? Another long story (Jewish stories tend to be long; we ramble. It adds context.), but simply put, a bunch of rabbis decided that 23 minutes was how much time was between the Jews fleeing Egypt and the pharaoh’s army. There are calculations in archives in Israel based on ancient place names, distances, average walking speeds based on average height of people in ancient Egypt.
My family specifically, would eat a big meal twice during Passover: once at the beginning of the holiday and again on the first (or second) Sabbath, depending on when the first day fell. Lots of matzo, lamb, and bitter herbs. The whole nine yards, so to speak. My favorite thing we would do though, is after the recounting of the Passover story, we would all run around the house looking for a hidden sheet of matzo. Sort of an easter egg hunt, but instead of chocolate and brightly colored eggs, we got a most likely stale piece of matzo. As I’m one of seven siblings, six boys, one girl, the matzo hunt was more a full contact, no holds barred, WWE wrestling style event. We always fought over who got to pretend to be the WWE wrestler Goldberg, the hero to all of us boys back in the day.
Nowadays, my siblings and I have all scattered to the winds. There are a few on the west coast, one on the east coast and a couple overseas. Six different time zones kind of deal. But we still get together on Skype with the parents, aunts and uncles to eat, tell the Passover story and argue with each other. A classic family holiday, really…
Passover is important to me because it’s an ancient narrative that still has context in today’s day and age. I think a lot of times, holidays evolve and detach from their origin stories, but Passover has remained more or less the same since we began celebrating it. We gather, we eat, we recount. And in that gathering, we connect to a long, long lineage of Jews that overcame so much – slavery, wandering the desert, oppression in the Middle East, Europe and the Holocaust.