Passover is steeped with many lessons, all of which are relevant in the 21st century. Most years, when thinking about the symbolism of the seder plate, I focus on the sweetness of the escape from slavery while eating charoset, the complicated tears while dipping parsley into salt water, the smearing of the lamb’s blood while lifting up the shank bone or the brokenness of the world while breaking the middle matzoh.
With all this symbolism, I typically glaze over the miracle of springtime. Because Passover always occurs in the spring, multiple foods on the seder plate represent the season. The double portion of greens provides not one but two reminders or the agricultural bounty.
The egg represents the cyclical nature life found in its shape and more concretely birth and the beginning of all life. Rabbi Yossy Goldman explains that the egg not only symbolizes the beginning of life but also the beginning of our national existence: the Jewish people were merely an egg being laid by a chicken during the Passover story as they escaped the slavery in Egypt. Escaping the physical confines of slavery was the first step in the series of new beginnings. It would take the Jewish people wandering in the desert (Today we remember this time with counting the Omer) until the revelation at Sinai where Judaism was born, just as the egg finally hatches into new life. The revelation at Sinai allows the egg/Jewish people to be fully born, because, even though the people had escaped servitude, they were not yet a cohesive group. They did not have a spiritual map filled with purpose and meaning until receiving the Torah.
During fall, leaves turn from green to beautiful shades of red, yellow and orange, only to fall to the ground, leaving their trunks bare and exposed. Berries, tomatoes and vines appear dead, lying completely dormant during the cold months… and then, as the weather heats up, the first signs of spring peek through.
A few weeks ago, walking on the streets of Jerusalem, it was obvious that Passover was approaching. There were blossoms on trees, grasses taking root and birds cheerfully chirping.
Thankfully, Santa Rosa is coming back to life as well. It is miraculous to see bulbs, flowers and grasses sprouting up from the barren, desolate lots that once cradled homes and families. The anticipation of spring has never had so much meaning. I connect to the divine when I watch a garden come back to life. It never ceases to amaze me that –overnight –buds break through unsuspecting surfaces. These little signs of green symbolize new life, hope and the continual signs of creation, birth and the cyclical nature of rebirth.
This year, as we notice the egg on our seder plates, it is important for us to call upon this tradition of physical and spiritual birth. I would argue that we should also add emotional rebirth and healing.
The fire was devastating. We are all affected and will wear permanent scars, but as time passes, thankfully those scars will fade ever so slightly. As the seasons turn, we are reminded that nature doesn’t stop. The world keeps turning, the seasons keep turning and, thankfully, bird chirping in the streets and new shoots peek through the ash. It’s through these blossoms that we will find the strength to keep planting roots in the places we call home.