The Power of Passover: A Call to Action from the Jewish Perspective

Haggadah Section: Commentary / Readings

by Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer

Celebrating the new year of the trees in wintry Philadelphia always seemed counter intuitive to me. When our children were small we aspired to mark the occasion by planting parsley in paper cups. Some years we did not get organized in time to buy the seeds, and some years we forgot about the plants and they went missing, but more often than we had any right to expect, the seeds germinated and by Pesach we had a small, improbable harvest of curly, green vegetables to put on the Seder plate.

The table is so laden with symbols that night, one wonders if it is possible to squeeze in yet another metaphor. But tasting that parsley was always one of my favorite moments. A child, some dirt, a few seeds in a Dixie cup... a living, edible plant! Each year, someone at the table would ask, “Why do we eat potatoes while pointing to the green parsley?” And someone else would say, “Because where our grandparents came from in Russia, the only “greens” that were available in April were potatoes. It was the best they could do; now it is a tradition.” Then we would eat wet, salty potatoes flecked with home-grown parsley and think about hardship and tears and about our ancestors who made their exodus out of Europe so that we could have children who farmed in paper cups—just for the wonder of it.

We wanted our children to grow up knowing that they were once slaves in Egypt (and poor enough to eat potatoes till summer), that it was upon them to remember that legacy, so they would know the heart of the slave, the immigrant, the prisoner, the hungry. Now our children are young adults, joining their efforts to redeem our sorry world. Is it too much to imagine that all those Seders gave them not only obligation but also a promise? Perhaps, during long winter slogs in the struggle for justice, they remember the taste of freshly picked parsley that sprouted against the odds, the taste of hope.

Reflecting on the experience of her own family, Fuchs-Kreimer’s focus is on the inspiration and hope that the celebration of Passover offers us. How does the Passover story or the memories of your family seders inspire you to repair the world?

Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Department of Multifaith Studies and Initiatives at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.

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