Exotic Passover Customs
By JAY BUSIHNSKY
(Copyright, 1963, Jewish- Telegraphic Agency, Inc.)
There are many ways in which There is one Jewish com- the start of Passover, all first
munity situated on the edge of born boys and girls fast in tri-
Jews celebrate Passover.
In the town of Oumzeb, deep the Libyan desert that sacrifices bute to the Angel of Death's
in the Sahara, the Seder lasts a lamb and eats it on the second having 'passed over' the houses
of the Hebrews when he slew
only five minutes! Before it be- day of Passover.
* * *
the Egyptian first born during
gins, the eldest member of the
the tenth plague.
family, on his return from the
Similarly, the Falashas — the
synagogue, takes a long wooden Jewish tribe that lives in north-
Making the tastiest and the
staff and marches back and forth ern Ethiopia — slaughter a lamb most mortar-like-looking Haro-
in front of his home. As he does for Passover, sacrifice it and eat set is something all Persian Jews
so, he says: "I came from Egypt; it during the first night of the vie to accomplish.
I am going to Jerusalem!"
* * *
holiday, amidst prayers and
And in reply, the members of songs that last throughout the
In the Caucasus, Jews start
his family say, "Le-shana night.
preparing flour for Matzot on
ha-ba'ah b'yerushalayim!" ("Next
They also prepare for the holi- the first day of Nissan. As
year in Jerusalem!")
day by cleaning their homes among the Yemenite Jews, bak-
During the brief Seder, the thoroughly and by burning all ing Matzot is a social activity
fatnily sits around a low table leaven. During the holiday, in which everyone has a specific
that is set with a pitcher of wine which lasts seven days (as in task in -- accordance with their
and a large copper tray. Three Israel) they eat Matzo called age and sex: *
whole Matzot are on the tray "kwita" and refrain from work
Haroset is also popular in the
along with Haroset and bitter on the first and seventh day of
Caucasus and Jews eat it
throughout -the week of Pass-
* * *
When the head of the house-
over. They also enjoy a salad
hold gets to "K'ha Lachma,"
The most elaborate Passover with small • pieces Of M a t z o
the selection which opens the rituals • of all oriental Jewish mixed in it during the holiday
Passover narrative, he raises. the communities are to be found period. •:
copper tray, touching everyone's among the Yemenites: • During
At the_ Seder, which is held
head with it. as he walks around the centuries of their isolation
. the table.
in the southwestern part Of the in the presence of. the "Hacham"
When the food (meat and Arabian peninsula, they de- (religious leader) the men wear
dates stuffed with m e a t) is veloped a host Of intricate cere- sashes 'arOund : their_ waists and
served, it is eaten quickly,. after monies and folkways connected carry swords. They sit together
which grace is said. For safety's with all of the Jewish holidays.- with the. women in two straight
.sake, (to keep - desert animals
They. divide the preparation rows on. either side of an elabor-
out, perhaps) the Saharan Jews on - Matzot
- into a series of clearly- ately woven _rug; on which the
omit the practice of opening the defined stages each of which Seder dishes and . candelabras
door for the prophet Elijah and is assigned to a specific group:' are set. _
therefore do not say the verse one IQ -Women only, another to
When the Hacham reads "In
beginning, "Pour out thy wrath" yoi.ing--girlS, to men and women every generation each man must
* * *
regard himself: as if he person-
and another to men alone.
To the northwest, in Morocco,-
ally departed from Egypt," one
Passover customs are consider-
of ,the young men takes some
ably different, although there is
Matzot, puts* into a worn cloth
one which has a Saharan coun-
and walks about the room show-
terpart: At the Seder, while the chanted that is similar to the ing it .to each person.
Haggadah is read, the head of one the Yemenite used in study-
As he does so, he explains
the household 1 i f t s. the • cere- ing the Mishna. (This confOrms
monial platter and circles it with the origin of the PaSsover. in the -language spoken by the
around the head of each person Haggadah, which was compiled Caucasian JewS that this is the
Way Our forefathers hurriedly
present. In 'so doing,--- he says, during the Mishnaic period.)
In spite of all the work that left Egypt. •
"In panic did we depart from
is 'put' into preparing Matzot for
A boy t e n. Is chosen, . is
In M-o r o cc p, '.Passover is the first Seder, Yemenite Jews dressed in .04 tattered clothes,
known. to the non-EurOpeanized bake fresh ones espeeially for and. is. given_ a knapsack and
• JewS as "Leil al-ras"—the night the second Seder .
a. long wooden staff with which
On both' occasions, members Of he is sent outside.
of the head—because on that
night Jews eat the heads of the family. sit on - the floor with
He then has -to plead with the
lambs. This custom probably two pillows at each person's left.
commemorates the sacrifices in The youngest boy is called upon- adults to let him return by as-
to .ask the four questions; after. suring' them- of hiS punctilibus-
the temple in Jerusalem.
When 'the Haggadah reading which -he is requested - to- repeat. 'leas in observing J -e wish re-
ligious laws. -The boy tells them
is -completed, each person takes them in Arabic.
* * *
that he is a traveler just re-
a staff, on each of which a small
knapsack has .been tied, and
Actnally, the Arabic questions turned from Jerusalem. He then
rushes out of the house, shout- differ from the Hebrew ones. is readmitted and uses his youth-
:ng, "Thus our forefathers de- They include a capsule summary ful imagination to tell overyone
parted from Egypt. "
of the entire Haggadah and are the latest Holy City news.
* * •
Everyone makes sure to take believed to have• been composed
a piece of afikomen with them for the benefit of the - Yemenite
In Bukhara, which is in Cen-
at.the end of the. Seder. In fact, women, many of *whom do not tral' Asia, Jews start preparing
MOroccan Jews • never embark understand Hebrew well enough Matzot right after Purirn. They
on a journey unless they have to follow the Haggadah.
bake it into small round cakes,
the afikomen with them. They
It the - boy recites well, he is but do not eat it, of course, until
believe that their chances of a rewarded with a hard boiled egg, they have 'burned all their lea-
safe return are enhanced there- but he is not allowed to eat it ven the day before Passover.
by and that they can even calm until the apropriate time in the
Instead of using a platter or
a stormy sea by casting it over- Seder (known as S h u l c h a n tray, for the Passover symbols,
board if necessary. -
they . use a special cloth which,
They also have a custom in-
The low Seder table on which when "K'ha Lachma Anya" (This
volving .salt that has a similar
_is poor *bread) 'is recited, is
practice in Libya... In Morocco, the ceremonial platter and the lifted up by each person taking
after the first day• of Passover. wine is kept is Moved aside dur- hold of its edges.
when the counting of- the Omer ing the reading of the Haggadah.
The head of the household
starts. salt is placed on the However, it is returned to its
Holy Ark in the synagogue. Each place :for "Kama Maalut Tovot," reads One section of the Hag-
member of the congregation after 'which everyone gets, a grip gadah at a time, making sure to
takes a small amount home with on' it - and raises it off of the translate each part so that every-
him and keeps it until the cc:hint- ground while chanting `Dayenu.' one- underStands what he is
The _menu at a Yemenite reading. In similar fashion, the
ing ends on Shavuot — 50 days
a variety of hard boiled youngest boy recites the four
later. They believe that the salt
protects them from the evil eye. egg- recipes, roasted' meat, Mat- questions, k . with" a , translation
In Libya, salt is distributed to zot" and "Ja'alah"!— a desseit after each. query.
These are some of the many
each person at the Seder and, made from seeds.
There is no cup for -Elijah the Pastover customs' practiced by
as in Morocco, - is- kept until Sha-
Prophet and the' . door is not Jewish communities that we in
The house cleaning that goes opened for "Pour out thy the West consider exotic. It is
on in the homes of Libyan Jews wrath... "This is not surprising true, of course, that these tradi-
before Passover is so thorough inasmuch as scholars say this tions are disappearing inasmuch
that it would impress even the custom was introduced in the as most of the Jews who lived
most particular American house- Middle Ages, probably - in re- in the places . described above
wife. It brings results too: In sponse to the blood libels of that have gone to Israel since 1948.
1948, when a typhus epidemic time. Since the Yemenite Jews Nevertheless, there is no such
broke out in Tripoli, Libya, there were practically isolated from thing as a 100 percent emigra-
the rest of Jewry then, it is tion. There are always a few (or
was not a single Jewish victim.
(The Samaritans, a sect close- understandable that their Hag- in some cases quite a few) who
ly aligned with but not identiCal gadah does not include that stay behind and insofar as the
authorities who govern the coun-
with Judaism. perform an -elabor- passage.
* * *
tries in which these Jews have
ate Passover sacrifice every year
Persian Jews celebrate Pass- lived for centuries refrain from
o at. Gerizim, near Nablus, for
which both Israel and Jordan -over in large groups, usually in obstructing the preservation of
waive the current border re- the courtyard of the "Mullah" these ancient traditions, a tra-
veler can still see them observed
strictions to allow all Samaritans (religious leader).
For the 24 hours preceding in Passover, 5723.
The Afikomen, Old and New
to join An another company of
celebrants and start a new meal.
Just why is -- not indicated: al-
though it may he deduced that
ending the meal with eating the
Paschal Lamb helped to rein-
force the significance of that
offering for the celebrants.
Another authority held that
desserts were not to be eaten
at the end of the meal, so that
the taste of the offering of the
lamb would be retained. The
rule of making the - Paschal
Lamb the last item to, be eaten
was later applied to matzoh
and the term afikomen was
then applied to the piece of
matzoh eaten at the end -of
the PaSsover -Eve tnOal.
Modern kholars are uncertain
as to the meaning Of 'the word,
but there does seem to be agree-
inent that the word is. Greek in
origin - and , equivalent to the
Greek "epikomon," meaning
dessert, or "epikomon," which
means "table song." •
By BEN GALLOB
(Copyright, 1963, JeWisli Telegraphic
. Agency, Inc.)
Perhaps the most interesting
observation among Jewish schol
ars on the :origin of the custom
of making the search for the
afikomen part of the Passover
Seder ceremony was the con-
viction .of the sages that the
younger element at the table
needed some - special inducement
to remain reasonably quiet, and
attentive during a lengthy cere-
This explanation clearly has a
most modern tone. It is one in-
stantly understandable to every
20th-century Jewish parent who
has been forced annually-to make.
w h o 11 y unauthorized abridge-
ments in the ceremony to keep
his restless offspring-from break-
ing up -the • Seder out of sheer
boredom.. . •
This- is -not the . only indica-
tion that .the.sages _were aware
of the short attention span of
the average small _child.. The
recitation of .the four questions
-is another.. Still, this recitation
smacks of -Hebrew school _les-
sons for the young American
Jewish Talmud. Torah _ pupil ,
and can hardly, be _compared
.with. the excitement of hunt:
ing for a hidden.piece of
matzoh with the .attendant re-
wards. These include not only
. handsome*61 returns— .
particularly if doting grand-
parents are present at the
Seder—bUt also the pleastires
of beating _a broth _ er or .a sis-
ter to the prize. _
Beyond agreement on this
ancient Jewish-acquaintance with
child psychology, the experts
seem to be''in - More or less' corn- .
plete disagreement as to what
the word ."afikomen" means,_and
how it originated. The word first
appears- in. a phrase in the Tal-
mud, which is translated "One
-should not wind up after the
Paschal Lamb by Afikomen."
There is nothing in the _paS-
sage to define Afikomen and the
Talmudic authorities differed as
to what it:meant, both generally
and in . the -context of the quota-
tion: According to. one authority,
not Seder cele-
it meant that
brants. were not' permitted—after
the communal, meal of the
Paschal.Lamb in ancient Israel-
During the year 1963, the State of
Israel is planning to play heist to 12
vafious international conventions:
...Among the thousands. of .delegates
that will visit this 'Year are people
of the Bahailtreligious sect that was
founded. in .Persia 120. years. ago. It
has over a million believers. Their
central holy "temple is built on
Mount Carmel in Haifa. _ ,
Among the -thousands of delegates
a - thousand 'representatives of the
Zionist •Organization of . America,
and almost two hundred rabbis of
the-- Rabbinical -Council of America.
After- them will come -Jews. from
the majority Of the countries of the
Diaspora, to the World Ccingress of
Jewish Youth that will be held in
At that time, over "a hundred
agronomists will visit at the Weiz-
mann Institute to discuss the prob-
lems Of - agriculthie -in young- states.
The. Hebrew University , in, . Jerusa-
lem will be host to 500 doctors who
Will participate in aif international
seminar on, blood disorders.
Music. too. will have a cioid. The
Ministry -• of Education and Cultdre
invited. 150 members of ,the Wor,ld
Council of Popular Music to a sem-
inar on the subject of "East and
West in Music."
It is worthwhile 'mentioning two
more conventions: The International
Book, Fair that will take place --in
Jerusalem, in - which over a hundred
Duhlis_hers will participate: and the
International - Flower Exhibition
taking place in Haifa, .the Carmel
in summary it can be said - that
music:' • science, literature; religiiOn
and flowers -will all' visit the State
of Israel: -
.Translator of .Hebrew_ column.
Published by Brith.Ivrith .01amith,
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