Some of my fondest childhood memories are of sitting at my grandmother’s long, long Seder table. Even after so many years, the memories are still so vivid: my grandfather lifting the matzah high in the air and booming, “This is the bread of affliction,” me trying to hide just the tiniest bit of maror (bitter herb) under a heap of charoset so I wouldn’t taste the bitter, all of us dipping Aunt Mary’s Potato Nicks into salt water. (Potato Nicks are my family’s unique interpretation of karpas – the green vegetable. Don’t worry, you weren’t supposed to learn that one in Hebrew school!)
Each year, as I teach young Jewish children to recite the “Mah Nishtana” (the Four Questions), these memories come flooding back. And I think about what it is that makes them so vivid. Of course, a big part of it is the specialness of having been with family. But another big part of it, I think, is actually the wisdom of the rabbis and scholars who wrote the Haggadah and devised the ritual for the Seder. (Though, of course, I never thought about them when I was sitting at my grandmother’s Seder table!)
We are commanded to retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt in each generation as if it were we, ourselves, who were freed from slavery. And how did the rabbis devise to make this retelling real and tangible for generations to come? By incorporating rich symbolism. We don’t just imagine how rushed the Israelites were to leave Mitzrayim; we experience it by eating matzah, the bread that didn’t have time to rise. We don’t just talk about the bitterness of slavery; we taste it by eating the bitter herb. We don’t just tell our children that we had to toil day and night building cities for Pharaoh; we mix the mortar for the bricks when we chop up apples to make charoset. Hundreds of years before Silicon Valley, the rabbis knew the importance of virtual reality!
Because these symbols have become so central in our observance of Pesach, it’s not surprising that the Passover Judaica with which we display and serve them has become such a major part of so many families’ collections. Just as the particular family traditions that have become a part of our Seders are handed down from generation to generation (like Aunt Mary’s Potato Nicks), so are the Seder Plates and the Matzah Covers and the Kiddush Cups.
The Seder Plate:
Ask any kindergarten or first grade religious school teacher what arts and crafts projects are the kids’ favorites at Passover, and they will tell you: 1-Baby Moses in a basket, and 2-Paper plate Seder plates. And the reason that a paper plate Seder plate is such an effective teaching tool is exactly the same reason that a real Seder plate is so important as we prepare for and conduct the Seder: it helps us to remember all the symbols, and it puts them right in front of us as we think about why they are there. Of course, Seder plates can be quite beautiful as well as functional (and Designer Seder Plates are generally made from materials a bit more substantial than paper!)
The Matzo Cover:
Lots of Pockets
Just as we cover the Challah on our Shabbat tables until it is time to say “Hamotzi,” we cover the matzo on our Seder tables. The difference is that during the Seder, we actually do a lot with the matzo (refer to it, point to it, lift it, break it in half) even before we say “Hamotzi” and eat it. Traditionally, we use three “main” matzos during the Seder, and most matzo covers have a separate compartment or pocket for each. As with almost all Jewish traditions, there are numerous explanations as to the meaning of the three matzos. The most commonly accepted says that there is one matzo for each of the three main groups of Jews – Kohanim (priests), Levites and K’lal Yisrael – because all of the three groups were freed from slavery in Egypt. Some Traditional Matzah Covers even label the three pockets with these Hebrew words.
The Afikoman Bag:
Towards the very beginning of the Seder, we break the middle matzo, put half back in its cover and put the other half aside for the Afikoman. The word Afikoman comes from the Greek word meaning “dessert,” and while it may not be a sweet and tasty treat, we cannot end the Seder without it. As a result, it’s a pretty valuable commodity, and in many families, the kids try to hide it and hold it for ransom. In other families, the leader of the Seder actually hides it and the kids try to find it. Either way, matzo is a pretty crumbly affair, and the whole thing can get a bit messy. Enter the Afikoman Bag, the perfect solution for one of the Seder’s “crumbier” problems!
So as we rush around looking for parsley and horseradish, and as we set the long, long Seder table, it’s important we remember that we’re not just making dinner, we’re making memories, and it’s through these symbols and these experiences that we make Judaism real in every generation.
Wishing you and your family a Happy Passover . . . Chag Sameyach!
What’s in Your Passover Shopping Cart?
Manischewitz® announces the debut of dozens of new product offerings, including health and wellness food, comfort food and Mediterranean food. The new products include cake mixes, macaroons, confections, matzo, pastas, gefilte fish and much more. Most are available for Passover and the year round. A number of the new products feature the Manischewitz health and wellness icon to communicate their healthier attributes.
Recognizing the recent organic craze, Manischewitz has pulled new organic matzo out of the oven. New round Seder matzos are handmade in Israel and baked on a natural stone hearth.
With Celiac Disease affecting nearly 3 million people, having gluten-free options at Passover is a must. Manischewitz now offers gluten-free yellow and chocolate cake mixes, both with a baking tin for convenience, and a delicious chocolate frosting.
Also debuting will be spiral- and shell-shaped gluten-free pasta. Made in Israel, these products will provide more variety for creative cooks.
Consumers most challenged during the holidays are diabetics and dieters. New sugar-free macaroons provide a great option for people looking for a sugar-free product during the holiday. They are available in coconut to be enjoyed during Passover and year round.
Debuting for the first time during Passover are the deliciously addictive Guiltless Gourmet Crunches. These all-natural crunches are bite sized snacks packaged in a re-sealable pouch, and available in three flavors: toasted almond crunch, roasted cashew crunch and berries and cherries nut crunch.
Enjoy the tastes of rosemary, oregano and olive oil with Manischewitz Mediterranean matzo. Using the same spices, Manischewitz Mediterranean gefilte fish adds a tasty twist.
Kosher-for-Passover red velvet cake mix is Pareve and packed with a baking tin and vanilla frosting to make it easy and convenient. Other new sweet treats include white chocolate covered egg matzos and mint chocolate macaroons. For those into savory foods, all-natural kettle chips for Passover come in two flavors, barbeque and sea salt.
A decorative tin of macaroons commemorates the history and culture of Jewish Americans. Follow along the timeline of the commemorative can while enjoying coconut macaroons.
An essential Pareve and gluten-free item for the Passover holiday, Mother’s margarine blocks are back. Helpful for baking needs, the blocks are available in salted and unsalted varieties, and each one pound block is wrapped in paper that includes measurement marks for convenience.
Mishpacha has more than a dozen new products. Baking items include chocolate syrup, confectioner’s sugar and baking powder. Mishpacha gluten-free Pesach crumbs provide crunchy meals.
For a full list of products, go to www.Manischewitz.com.
Yehuda Gluten-Free Food
Another gluten-free option for Passover comes from Yehuda. Imported from Israel and made Kosher for Passover,Yehuda Gluten Free Matzo is made of all-natural ingredients — tapioca starch, potato starch, potato flour, pressed palm oil, natural vinegar, egg yolks, honey and salt. Each box contains about 10 matzo that work in recipes such as matzo ball soup and matzo brei. Choose from plain and toasted onion flavors.
Yehuda also has a variety of other gluten-free Kosher-for-Passover products or products that can be used for Passover. They are honey, horseradish, Nutella® and noodles. The company also offers a gluten-free Passover cookbook.
Contact Yehuda at www.GlutenFreeMatzo.com.
Kosher for Passover – yes, there’s an APP for that. This year Kosher for Passover abounds with new and innovative foods and beverages, and enters the technology age.
The Orthodox Union (www.ou.org) is the leading global kosher certification agency. Its new OU Kosher App allows people to search for complete listings of all Kosher for Passover OU-P products, as well as those that do not need special certification, newly certified products and product alerts. Look for the OU’s Digital OU Guide to Passover by visiting www.ou.org.
This information and more about Kosher for Passover products comes from Kosherfest, the largest kosher food and beverage trade show (www.kosherfest.com), and KosherToday, the bi-weekly kosher food industry newsletter.