Bless the internet and social media. I never thought I would utter those words, but I did, just today, and I mean it, especially over this holiday week.
Somehow, this year, my husband and I were winging it for the Passover Seders. Grandkids have different school breaks, and we live in far-flung states these days. Only through FaceTime, texting, Facebook, emails and cellphones are we connecting with our nearest and dearest.
It’s way better than nothing, and it helps mitigate any sense of isolation over a holiday break. So part of my celebration is dependent on the Wi-Fi connection, where I grin at the grandies and ask about their Seders. At the same time, I still stand over my homemade matzo ball soup, eau de chicken steaming my hair and reminding me who I am.
One terrific thing about having social media is that through messaging, the tight family circle has expanded to include old friends who moved away, new friends who may be traveling and people we love who cherish the season but worship to a different beat or don’t worship at all.
I’ve been able to read online about how the world’s religions worship during this holy week, and remind myself that the real meaning of the holidays goes beyond bunnies and Peeps and matzo-meal cookies.
The power of the season is profound. Christians around the world honor the death and resurrection of Jesus. History, albeit imperfect, suggests that the Last Supper may have been a Seder. Some teach that the first Seder occurred around the same time, but not at the same meal as Jesus’s meeting with his Apostles. The Quran shares many details of the Christian and Hebrew ancient narrative as well.
In Druid lore, the eggs of serpents were worshipped as part of a pagan ritual, so the holiday egg gets around, from Easter eggs to Passover eggs on the Seder plate to ancient folklore. The stories overlap and conflict and come together in countless ways, but every narrative speaks of rebirth and new life and finding meaning in communion. Does it need to be stated that we have more bringing us together than keeping us apart? I love this time of year because it intertwines the religions of the world in a celebration of hope.
According to scripture, Jesus and his apostles drank wine and ate unleavened bread, both of which are major elements of the Seder meal. The unleavened bread is what the Jewish people call matzo. It’s the staple of Passover, and appears in many guises, from matzo balls in soup to matzo farfel pudding to chocolate-covered matzo to matzo-meal pancakes to matzo and apple soufflé.
No matter the form it takes, matzo is a daunting gastronomic experience, because it will bind your insides like crazy glue. Still, it’s the Passover go-to starch. Every course has some form of matzo in it, from the soup to the dessert. Some people require matzo made in Israel; others are OK with the homegrown varieties.
We must agree that any discussion of what was served at the Last Supper or the first Seder, and whether or not those events took place exactly as many people believe, is subject to interpretation and speculation. According to Food and Wine magazine (not known for its religious gravitas), in 2015, a team of Italian archaeologists determined that olives and herbs were also part of the Last Supper. And, they suggest, from studying art and ancient writings, that Jesus and his followers may have dined on charoses. Today, charoses, a mixture of wine, apples and nuts, is on every Passover table. It is eaten, of course, on matzo. Since no one can ever agree on anything when it comes to Jewish traditions, some Jewish people make their charoses from dates and wine and nuts.
So, back and forth, over this past week, I texted favorite recipes to friends and received advice on how long to cook the brisket. People I haven’t seen in a year reached out with blessings for the holiday, and I sent wishes for their holiday gatherings. Whether friends were sitting down to a honey-glazed ham on Easter Sunday, a vegetarian First Seder or an old-fashioned, cooked-to-death brisket fest, we’ve been able to touch one another with loving words.
Copyright 2019 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.