As the old saying goes:
Definition of a Jewish holiday: they tried to kill us, we won, let's eat.
And that's the story of Passover in a nutshell.
Well, the truth is, there's a lot more to the story. The Exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai are the core of Jewish identity. I read somewhere that more Jews celebrate Passover than any other Jewish holiday.
And Passover, being a primarily home-oriented celebration, is easy enough to observe in some fashion. Even if you don't have a full Seder, you're likely to have some sort of dinner to mark the occasion.
I am a modern, secular Jew. I belong to a synagogue and observe many of the rituals of my faith, but I also live in a secular world. I don't keep kosher. My mother kept a kosher house when I was growing up, but we ate non kosher foods outside of the home. So it was never that important to me.
But on Passover, everything changes. I guess the symbolism of keeping kosher and adhering to the additional food restrictions of Passover is a way to bring the practical and the spiritual together. We are told that each of us must act as though we ourselves were slaves in Egypt, and that we were freed along with our ancestors. If our ancestors had not been freed, we and our children and our children's children would still be slaves.
Our ancestors were forced to depart from Egypt in haste, before the dough for their bread had a chance to rise, and took the bread from the ovens while it was still flat. So we reenact the Exodus, we avoid leavened foods such as bread and pasta, and eat matzo instead. Which leaves us scrambling to find substitutes for things we normally eat. The first few days of the holiday are exciting, with special holiday foods, but by the end of the week, everyone is sick of matzo and ready to get back to a normal routine.
So tonight we will have a Seder. We will gather around the table, tell the ancient story of our liberation, and feast on chicken soup with matzo balls, gefilte fish, brisket...
And yes, we will use the "museum piece".
My family Seder plate is an antique, purchased by my grandfather, probably sometime in the mid 1920's. Last year, as you may recall, my sister found similar plates for sale on eBay. We found versions in black and blue in addition to the red. I wrote about it here.
The back of the plate bears the inscription: BARDIGER, London, and TEPPER, London with a circular seal that says, Manufactured by Ridgway England
I found out that this design was first registered by Ridgways, the Staffordshire manufacturer of the plate, in 1923. "Bardiger" is a retailer mark for Solomon Bardiger's china shop, which was at 180 Brick Lane, London. Solomon was a Ukrainian immigrant (just like my grandparents who bought the plate!). He came to England in 1890 and traded in a wide variety of goods, but became most well known for his Judaica table wares. It was he who commissioned Ridgways to make the plate.
One of the blue plates found its way into the Brooklyn Children's Museum. Another made it into the Spurlock Museum of World Cultures in Illinois.
We don't regard it as a museum piece, though. To us it's just the plate our grandfather bought for the Passover Seder, full of memories.
life in and around NYC is insane
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