Passover, like many of our holidays, combines the celebration of an event from our Jewish memory with a recognition of the cycles of nature. As we remember the liberation from Egypt, we also recognize the stirrings of spring and rebirth happening in the world around us at this time of the year. The symbols on our table bring together elements of both kinds of celebration.

Each sprig that breaks through the soils to turn green beneath the sun, there are many that still remain hidden in the darkness. We all have aspects of ourselves that sometimes get buried under the stresses of our busy lives. What has this winter taught us? What elements of our own lives do we hope to revive this spring and bring out of the darkness?

We now take our Karpas (green vegetable), representing our joy at the dawning of spring after our long, cold winter. We take our symbol of new life and sustenance and dip it into salt water, a symbol of the tears our ancestors shed as slaves in Egypt. Dipping the karpas in the salt water suggests the possibility of growth and renewal even in the midst of difficult times. A reminder that one day, tears should only flow in joy.

Before we eat it, we recite a short blessing:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p’ree ha-adama.

We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who creates the fruits of the earth.

We look forward to spring and the reawakening of flowers and greenery. They haven’t been lost, just buried beneath the snow, getting ready for reappearance just when we most needed them.

In the same way, even in the midst of oppression, Soviet Jews kept the seeds of their culture alive. Although Soviet Jewish history is certainly full of suffering both under the Russian Empire and during the Soviet Union, we are now blessed to have the freedom to celebrate our identity and the opportunity to participate in a re-birth of Jewish life.

haggadah Section: Karpas