My morning’s task: grinding several pounds of horseradish into the bitter batter that will provide spoonfuls of tears at this year’s Seder. Of all gastro-Judaic treasures, horseradish is my favorite flavor and one of my most sacred annual tasks. I learned it from my father.
On April 11th, 1945 my father Naphtali, age 19, was liberated from Buchenwald. Growing up, Passover Seders always had multiple layers of meaning for our family, with the sorrows of enslavement and the reality of liberation never too far away. Only now I realize how much of my father’s horseradish making on the eve of this holy night was about the creativity of celebrating continuity, and perhaps also a bitter-sweet revenge.
This year Passover falls on April 11th. It’ll be up to me, my siblings and our children to continue his legacy by telling his incredible saga of transformation from slavery to liberation. We’ll dole out spoonfuls of bitterness, sweeten with sticky mortar, and drink to life, focusing on the radical optimism that is at the root of the Exodus story – then and now, for our people and all people.
At another Lab/Shul family Seder, Jack, 13, will be leading. Jack is an amazing young man, participating in our Raising the Bar B-Mitzvah journey along with other teens and their families. His mom Rhona, who serves on our Board of Directors, wrote this deeply moving and super funny account – “My Atheist Son Is Leading Our Seder, and It’s Going to Be Awesome.”
We’re kvelling and so glad to share with you just in time for your own Seders, hopefully rich with old and new traditions, familiar and fresh flavors, deep questions, real conversations, big hugs, and open doors to more hope within us and in our world. (Looking for a few last min readings or thought provoking questions to add to your ritual dinner theater? We’ve got you covered!)
You can also turn these sacred messages into action at our Weekly Action this Thursday (JRFEJ’s Seder in the Streets) and next Saturday at Shabbat AM + Earth Day 4/22.
May all the flavors of these holy days, bitter and sweet, bring us a taste of what it’s like to be even better when we’re together.
– Rabbi Amichai