Chag Sameach! Passover in South Africa

Chag sameach! Today is Passover, a commemoration of the liberation of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. Quite a hefty number of years ago, G-d’s avenging angel “passed over” Israelite houses in search of Egyptian families to smite, allowing occupants of the former to escape; viz. Exodus.

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In South Africa, Jewish families celebrate Passover with a seder drawn from 19th century European tradition, reflecting the community’s main heritage. The idea is to make the night feel different from other nights; the symbolic observances include eating bitter herbs like parsely (to taste the bitterness of slavery), sweet haroset (a paste of apple, honey and nuts – to taste the sweetness of freedom), and, of course, matzoh (unleavened bread – to eat what the escaping slaves ate as they crossed the desert out of Egypt).




SA Blog’s favorite tradition is the naming of the plagues. Fingerbowls of wine are set out, and fingers are dipped in as each plague is called: Blood, Frogs, Lice, Flies, Livestock (deaths), Boils, Hail, Locusts, Darkness, and First Born Sons (deaths) were the first ten plagues G-d sent down – which, however, left the Israelites unscathed. Quite a gory season, that, if you were an Egyptian.

Some Jewish families will roast a lambshank tonight, following the tradition of their forefathers; others will just roast a chicken; and the streets will be quiet in their neigborhoods – until the feasts are finished and some of the feasters make their way home on foot. A few will doubtless stumble, singing off-key, up Your Correspondent’s street.