The Seder meal may seem a strange feast to some: horseradish, wine and gefilte fish are among the offerings.
But the motley fare helps the faithful remember the ancient Israelites' exodus from Egyptian enslavement, points out Shari Ellsworth, a member of Lubbock's Congregation Shaareth Israel.
The horseradish, for example, reminds of the bitterness of slavery, while the drinking of wine commemorates the Israelites' eventual freedom and other moments of the exodus narrative.
And that poached Passover dish, gefilte fish -- well, no one really knows what that means, Ellsworth said.
Some say gefilte fish symbolizes God's parting of the Red Sea. But, Ellsworth added, "A lot of people will say it's just tradition."
The Passover tradition is one Ellsworth works diligentely to impart to her two daughters; the family, like many Jewish families around the world, will mark the beginning of Passover tonight with the Seder meal.
For many, Passover is not just a time of remembrance commanded by God -- it serves as an opportunity to recall and affirm Jewish heritage.
Learning opportunities abound during the holiday, said Amie Duemer, also a member of Congregation Shaareth Israel. There is the Seder itself, which includes readings guiding listeners through the exodus story via the plate of symbolic foods.
Aside from the Seder, education also comes through the traditional avoidance of leaven during the seven- to eight-day span of Passover.
Many families eat unleavened bread to identify with the ancient Israelites, who were said to have fled their Egyptian homes so quickly they had no time even for the bread to rise.
Duemer and her sons will try to capture those moments Saturday while making matzah, an unleavened bread. The recipe calls for the matzah to be prepared and baked in 18 minutes. Though Duemer is quick to say she does not know whether her forbears actually prepared the bread in 18 minutes, she noted the quick baking serves as another time to discuss the Passover's significance with her young sons.
"I like them to try and associate (Passover) with something in their lives -- you know, bring it to their lives so that they can understand it," Duemer said.
Ellsworth tries to reinforce the holiday's significance to her daughters and other Jewish youth.
"Some of our holidays are really about the overcoming of persecution and this is probably one of our most important ones," she said.
Still, the importance is sometimes lost on the very youngest, who tend to be more enthralled with gift-giving holidays like Hanukkah, said Ellsworth.
Passover, with its absence of gifts and leavened bread, lacks the same luster.
"They always go, 'Well, do we get gifts?' "
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