Prepping For Passover: Congregation Ahavath Achim readies Seder foods for Passover

Published on Friday, 11 April 2014 22:43 - Written by Rebecca Hoeffner rhoeffner@tylerpaper.com

Sunday’s persistent rainstorms almost interfered with one Jewish congregation’s Passover preparations.

Rabbi Alan Learner, of Congregation Ahavath Achim, and several other members of the congregation spent their Sunday making the synagogue Kosher for Passover, which is much more thorough than keeping daily Kosher.

“The pots and pans have to be immersed in boiling water for at least 15 seconds,” he said. “I used an 80-quart pot and a propane burner outside — when it wasn’t raining.”

Passover, which begins on Monday night this year, is the spring holiday that recognizes and celebrates the Jews release from captivity in Egypt, recorded in the book of Exodus. The holiday is most known for the Seders, or Passover meals, that are incorporated every year.

On the Seder plate, each piece of food has symbolism.

The bitter herbs (usually horseradish) represents the “bitterness of affliction,” of the Jews in Egypt, Learner said.

The lamb shank bone (which is not eaten) represents God’s promise to save the Jewish people “with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,” Learner said.

A green vegetable, usually parsley, represents spring and the renewal of life.

Another bitter plant, (Romaine lettuce is usually used), is a reminder of how the Jews descent into slavery was a slow process; the Egyptians at first recruited them voluntarily for national building projects.

“Little by little, freedoms are taken away,” Learner said.

The apples and honey represents the mortar used between bricks. The hard-boiled egg has various symbolism, from the circle of life to an analogy for what happens when it’s cooked.

“An egg gets harder as it’s cooked,” Learner said “This is what the Egyptians did to us. But even by doing so, it made us want to live even more. We emerge stronger and harder no matter what is done to us. We have always found a way to maintain our way of life. We’re still here, even though we’ve been severely oppressed.”

Part of the other Passover preparations included pouring boiling water over kitchen surfaces and donating or selling food that contains leavening (Passover is also known for the use of unleavened bread, as the Jews in ancient Egypt didn’t have time for their bread to rise before the exodus).

Preparing for Passover is a lot of work, but the congregations don’t seem to mind.

“It’s like a party,” said Learner’s wife, Ellen.

Another congregation in Tyler, Congregation Beth El, will hold a community Seder April 15, and the public is invited.

This event is free and open to the whole community. However, registration is encouraged, so the congregation can plan properly. The program will begin at 6:30 p.m. and will include Passover food. It will not be a full meal, so participants should eat dinner before they arrive. Register by April 13 at jewishtyler.com.