Reflections on Passover
What the best thing on the Passover table, the one we all love?
Of course, it’s the Charoset. That yummy paste takes away all the misery of waiting and waiting for food, to realize at the beginning of the Seder we are actually only dipping parsley in salty water. That would bring tears to anyone’s eyes.
The Charoset, what a delicious concoction! The Charoset is the reminder of the mortar the Israelites used for making bricks in Egypt.
Did you ever wonder why the Charoset is sweet, since making bricks is not a happy, sweet thing?
I am sitting in my study and wondering if I had to invent food to represent the mortar, what would I use that would look like mortar and still be kosher for Passover? I assume I could use potatoes, mashed potatoes with sautéed onions and other bitter herbs.
But a sweet dish was chosen and I wonder why, which led me to think, about the ingredients of the Charoset.
From my childhood I remember the heavenly sweet paste a touch spicy with a tinge of red wine. Being curious, I decided to ask my closest friends what their family’s Charoset was made of.
It was very interesting to see the different ingredients and their origin. My friends whose families come from the Middle East use dates as the main ingredient. My friends whose families came from Eastern Europe said their Charoset was based on apples and other fruits. Both had nuts, wine, and different spices, some spicy, some not. Interestingly, when my girlfriends talked about the ingredients, one of them from a Polish family was adamant that their Charoset was always made with dates and apples. That’s when I realized the beauty of living in Israel with Jews from all over the world. Our dishes, our families’ heritage recipes are “intermarried. Dates were added to apples and different spices were used. So, a new Israeli Charoset recipes were born.
Dates are magical. They are sweet, smooth and healthy. Dates are one of the seven species representing the fruits of the Holy land. Date is the only fruit that is mentioned twice in the Torah. One as a fruit of the seven species and the other is part of the 4 species, that we bless on during Succoth.
The date tree can also be used for blessings and crafts of the trunk and branches of the tree.
The word date in Hebrew is Tamar, which is also a unique and beautiful Biblical woman’s name. There are two Tamars mentioned in the Bible. The first Tamar was the widow or Er and Onan, sons of Judah, Jacob’s fourth-born son. The second was the daughter of King David. Both stories deal with the spiritual corruption and moral failures of the elder.
I was always wondering about the name Tamar. Looking at the name in written Hebrew, I always see the name as two words, Tam and Mar. Tam means ended, finished. Mar means bitter. The date is very sweet and its essence means “bitterness ended”. So Tamar in the Charoset means more than just representing the mortar the Israelites used to build in Egypt. It means a bitter time has ended and a sweeter one is starting.
Leaving Egypt signified an end of a bitter era and the beginning of a better one like the sweetness of going from bondage to freedom, where the bitter has ended and the sweet will replace it—Tamar.
And I know this unexplainable, unpredictable and uncertain time we are experiencing will be over and better things will sprout from this saga. So in this Passover we will pass over obstacles, bitterness will need and be replaced by the sweetness of the date itself. And yes, in every date is a hard pit. We all need to be careful and pull it out. So in life we will have obstacles on our way. We don't know where or when they will come. But looking ahead we can spot the hard pit and remove it, leaving us with the sweetness.
This Passover we are feeling in bondage since we are ordered to stay home for one reason—to protect us, our health and the people all around us. At the same time it seems as we refrain from our activities the world is healing, the air is clear. You can actually see the skies, the clouds, the stars at night, and the fish in the clear water. It seems we are taking too much space in this planet. We are influencing the skies, the oceans, the forest, and the animal world.
It feels, as we are at home that we are physically confined like being in a cocoon. Like the butterfly forming in the cocoon gets ready to break the shell, we are doing the same. It might not be by choice, but there is no doubt about it. We are reforming as individuals, part of family, community, and citizens of the world. Let’s hope we are passing into a new, cleaner, fresher Earth.
What's our Ma Nishtana? Why is this night different form all other nights? I’m not sure if we know it yet. It is my blessing and prayer to all of us to gain the wisdom of what and how we can actually make the change happen.