Monday night, members of Trinity Episcopal Church, and guests of the Jewish faith gathered in Benedict Hall to conduct a traditional Seder, and celebrate the start of the weeklong Passover holiday, with wine, and unleavened bead called Matzo. A feast of lamb and desserts followed.
Apalachicola residents Danny Itzkovitz and his children, Alex and Maya, with Jody Rosenbaum and her husband Will, helped lead those gathered in prayers in the Hebrew language thanking God for bringing Moses to take the Jews out of slavery in Egypt under Pharaoh. George Rudo, a Trinity member, also presided over the program organized by the Parish Life Committee, chaired by Susan Clementson and Ina Margaret Meyer. Clementson reminded those gathered, that, “Christianity, came from this tradition,” and that it is important that cultures come together during this holy season. Will Rosenbaum was pleased that, “Each year the church invites more tribe members that know how it’s done.”
It is done is by telling a story, using food and drink as symbolism. Passover is according to 30MinuteSeder.com, referenced throughout the evening, a story with a sad beginning but happy ending. For Jews and Christians it is a time to reflect on the oppression of shared ancestors, and the less fortunate. Rudo and Jody Rosenbaum began by lighting festival candles, and praying, that, “all who are free, appreciate blessings of abundance.”
Approximately 70 people sat at tables set with the Seder plate, on which was Matzo, bitter herbs, or horseradish, (Maror and Chazeret), an apple and nut dish resembling mortar used by slaves (Charoset), hard-boiled egg (Seitzah), parsley for the arrival of spring (Karpas), bowls of salt water, and wine, that guests poured, for the next person, as though each had a servant for the night.
The Itzkovitz children, attending Trinity’s Seder for the first time, then read the Four Questions – which provide answers to why the Seder is different than any other night and stresses that its rituals be explained in a way that all God’s children can understand. This was followed by the Afro-American spiritual, “Go Down Moses,” telling that God spoke to him in a burning bush, and after enduring plagues – marked by dipping a finger into wine, and onto a plate ten times – parted the Red Sea to let the Jewish people go free.
The responsive prayer of Dayenu closes the ceremonial portion of the Seder. Dayenu means, “It would have been enough and we are grateful,” to God for the Sabbath and Manna in the desert. Wine is drunk reclining, which Jody Rosenbaum said is symbolic of being a free person who can lie down and no longer a slave. Finally, the door is opened, for the Prophet Elijah to enter the room and, “issue in the great Age of Peace.”
For attendees, the Seder proved interesting, and meaningful. Clint and Anne Eason of Apalachicola wanted to, “have this experience at Easter time,” and Jan Thomas recalled her own Sunday school lessons in rural Iowa. Itzkovitz, who spent summers in Israel as a child, remembered the Seder feeling like it lasted hours. But, in the end, the children get to hunt for hidden Matzo in the room.
Rev. Martha Harris concluded that the Seder is relevant to her congregation because, “It takes us back.” In Trinity’s newsletter, The Bay View, Harris wrote that prior to the fourth century, Christians observed Pascha, or, Christian Passover, and these special days are, “a means to shape sacred time; and a structure…in which to call God’s people to reverent and faithful response to God.”
Easter, like Passover, is a feast. Rudo summed up, “As a Judeo-Christian this is history. It would have been a very different world if the Jewish people had never left Egypt.”