An Exotic Passover

Full Moon in Aptos, California. Photo by Elizabeth Good

Full Moon in Aptos, California. Photo by Elizabeth Good

While this is my first “official” blog for my new updated site (Yes! Blogging capabilities at last!), it’s an oldie but goodie. But I like to re-post it at this time of year.

I hope it stirs memories of your own holiday celebrations, and/or gives you a window to this one that perhaps you’ve never thought about.
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I’m more the type of gal who is interested in the fact that Passover is on the first full moon after Equinox than I am in traditional Judaism. As with Easter, which was originally held on the first Sunday after the first full moon after Equinox (but became subject to a more complex formula for determination of the date over time), I am drawn to the Earth-based, rhythmic underpinnings of religious holidays, which serve to connect us to our innate spiritual nature.

That being said, growing up Jewish (and appreciating many aspects of Jewish spirituality), it is impossible to not enjoy my fond childhood memories of the traditional Passover ritual meal, the Seder.

The week-long holiday often is celebrated by American Jews with Seders on the first night, and for some also the second. Extended family or friends customarily gather.

While first night was, for me, a fun affair as a child (with us giggling cousins being our usual kid-like selves to endure the semi-serious process), it was probably not unlike many American Seders based in European roots (known as Ashkenazic Judaism) and the common more liberal Reform-style Judaism that most of my friends and family practiced.

Second night, though, was another experience altogether. My very strict uncle, a follower of the most religious form of Judiasm (Orthodox), and hailing from Persia, practiced the—to me—exotic Sephardic style of Judaism, which is the type that those from the Iberian Peninsula practice. Though there was a solemnness to his approach, it was mysterious enough to keep me eager with anticipation every year, when my sister and I would go with my parents and meet up with our two same-aged cousins and their folks.

I was always enthralled; captivated. Not to mention anticipating the meal that came late into the evening, after the first half of the Seder rituals happened. Sure, first night with chicken and matzoh ball soup was a big treat. But… Persian food!! Oh my goodness.

I wrote this short simple poem back when I was in college. It brings me to that feeling of mystery with which my exotic Middle Eastern, Orthodox Jewish uncle was enshrouded. I always feel that his passing brought him closer to the Source he so honored.

Uncle Hoff

When it was still Persia

You and grandpa left

Made a new life here

 

Kept your religion

Never touching lamps

After dark on Sabbath or holidays

 

We four cousins

in awe of you

And you of The Lord.

 

Years later

We burn with memories

Of all that you gave us

 

It has not been the same

Since you left us for your God

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Comments

  1. Dear Elizabeth, I only read your most recent blog about Passover. Thanks for the mini-lesson in (some of the) different forms of Judaism – & the sweet poem to your Uncle Hoff, which I loved.

  2. Ruthanne says:

    What a lovely poem, about your Uncle Hoff. I too, like you, have good memories of passover with family and friends.

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