Monday, March 08, 2010

Opening the Door: Celebrate Passover with Matzah, Maror, and Memories by Deborah Heiligman

In the spring Jewish people all over the world celebrate Passover. We celebrate with matzah, maror, and memories.

Kids love holidays--the games, the gifts, the food, and the fun of having the family gathered around them. Deborah Heiligman's beautifully illustrated Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Passover: With Matzah, Maror, and Memories (National Geographic, 2008, 2010) draws upon this common experience to make the history, customs, and universal aspects of the Passover celebration appealing as well as understandable for elementary readers.

Heiligman begins with a dramatic retelling of the Exodus, the story of the ten plagues and the hurried escape of the Israelites from Egypt into the desert which is familiar to many children of other faiths. She explains the significance of their hastily prepared flat bread baked quickly without rising, called (and spelled) variously, as matzo or matzoh in the Ashkenazi tradition, matze in Yiddish, and transliterated also as matzah or matza from time to time, and the customary prohibition against eating chametz, risen breads in any form during the celebration.

Heiligman takes the young reader through the symbolic foods of the Seder, the ritual meal of the first night of Passover--the maror (bitter herbs representing the suffering of the flight from Egypt, the hazerat (sweet to bitter herbs), the haroset (a mixture of ground nuts and fruit with wine to stand for the mortar the slaves were forced to use in Egypt), the karpas (the fresh new greens of spring), the z'roah (the roasted lamb bone signifying sacrifice), the beitzah (a roasted egg symbolizing new life) and the Cup of Elijah, the wine always set out upon the table for the prophet, with the promise "next year in Jerusalem." Although many of these--eggs, lambs, wine, spring greenery--are among the familiar symbols of Easter as well, Heiligman also focuses upon the poignant ritual of having the youngest child open the door to let Elijah share the celebration of liberation.

The fun of hiding the afikomen, the last piece of matzah consumed at the Seder, with the finder trading it for a prize, will appeal to young readers, pointing out the joy of the celebration, while the ample appendix provides plenty of information for elementary research projects, including the "Four Questions," asked by the youngest child which explain the meaning of Passover, maps, a glossary, a bibliography, and web sites for further investigation.

Newly published in an inexpensive but sturdy paperback edition by National Geographic this year, Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Passover: With Matzah, Maror, and Memories is part of a extensive and notable series, Holidays Around the World, which also includes, among others, Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr and Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Easter: With Colored Eggs, Flowers, and Prayer.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home