Passover Customs

Passover is a holiday filled with customs, from the dipping of greens in salt water to the chanting of the Four Questions by the youngest child. Some customs are unique to specific Jewish communities around the world. Which of the following is a real Passover seder tradition?

Seder Plate by Rebecca Siegel is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A. The Dardasht Jewish community from Iran has a custom wherein the cup of Elijah is passed around and shared by all guests at the end of the seder, just before chanting “Next Year in Jerusalem.” The custom developed following a great drought which affected the community in the 1600’s, leaving many families starving. The rabbis determined that it would be wasteful to leave over any wine, so they decided the wine could be shared, with the assembled reciting the Shechecheyanu prayer at that moment, thanking God for sustaining them and allowing them to live to celebrate together.

B. There has been a Jewish community in Gibraltar since the late 1300’s, when Gibraltar was under Muslim rule. After Gibraltar fell under the rule of the Christian kings of Spain, the Jews were expelled as part of the Inquisition. In the 1700s, Gibraltar became part of the British empire, and over time a Jewish community returned, in particular from Morocco. Jews in Gibraltar have a custom wherein they prepare charoset, the symbol of the mortar used in the building of pyramids, in the Sephardic style with dates, nuts, apples and cinnamon, but also with the additional ingredient of real brick dust.

CIn the 1920s, a large number of Eastern European Ashkenazic Jews moved to Mexico following the restrictive immigration laws that were enacted in the United States at that time. The community concentrated in the Mexico City neighborhoods of Condesa and Roma, and over time the Jews interacted with and adopted aspects of the culture of the dominant community. One aspect of this is the charoset served at seders by these Mexican Jews. Rather than an apple and nut based charoset like Ashkenazic Jews make, or the Sephardic style with dried dates, apricots and other fruits, the Mexican Jews make charoset that is a variation on guacamole, to which they add pecans, a nut which is native to Mexico.

DMany Sephardic communities have a custom wherein they whip each other with scallions during the singing of Dayenu, mimicking the lashes of the Egyptian slave masters. In Turkey, it is traditional for seder attendees to eat strong maror, causing them to cry, and then to wipe their tears on the scallions before eating them, rather than dipping in salt water.

E. There are a number of unusual traditions at the seders in Mar A Lago. Most notably, in a reenactment of the exodus from Egypt, any seder attendees who are not American citizens are gathered together while the American attendees yell “Lock them up.” Then the non-citizens are sent out to the golf course, where they must first walk through a water trap, symbolizing the crossing of the Red Sea, after which they run through sand traps, symbolizing the Jews in the desert. The evening ends as the citizens place notes in a symbolic Western Wall, with the non-citizens huddled on the other side of the wall unable to return to the seder.

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