Spring is in the air, and the Jewish holiday of Passover is right around the corner. The eight-day holiday celebrates the freedom of the Israelite slaves from ancient Egypt. David Scher, of Cornelius, along with his wife, Lisa, and his son, Sam, 1, are preparing for the celebration.
On Passover, it is traditional for families to have a Seder or a ritual meal together. A book called the Haggadah guides the family through ritual prayers, stories and songs. The Seder plate is always the centerpiece of the table. On it are ritual foods that represent symbols of Passover.
Scher reflects on past Seders with his family in Baltimore, Md., where he grew up.
The dining room table would be transformed into one long table extending all the way into the living room to accommodate the 30 or so family members in attendance, he said. His grandfather, as the patriarch of the family, would sit at the head of the table and lead the service.
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Scher remembers how his grandfather would lead his family through the Haggadah. Everyone had a chance to read something. Each family member would take turns, reading a passage or saying one of the Hebrew prayers. Scher had the honor of reading a special part of the service called the four questions because he was the youngest member of his family. The theme of the questions was "Why is this night different from any other night?"
His grandfather had a particular way of leading the Seder. Scher recalls how it was funny that his grandfather would read the stage directions that are usually not read aloud.
He admits that his grandfather would time the Seder according to when the meal was ready. He could often be heard asking how the meal was coming along. If there was still time before dinner, he would read all of the traditional prayers and stories. If he knew dinner was going to be ready early, Scher recalls with a smile that his grandfather would sometimes skip a few pages. Regardless, he has fond memories of singing songs, saying prayers and celebrating with his whole family.
Like most holidays, the meal was the highly anticipated event. Scher's family had traditional foods like gefilte fish and matzah ball soup. On the Seder plate was Charoset, a combination of nuts, apples, spices and wine.
Since leavened bread is not eaten on Passover to symbolize how the Israelites did not have time to let their bread rise before they fled from Egypt, Scher's family ate matzah, an unleavened, flat cracker that is a traditional Passover staple.
A favorite meal activity in Scher's family was breaking the hard boiled eggs. If you hold two eggs point to point and hit them together, only one will break. It was a friendly competition to see who could keep their egg intact. Scher laughs as he explains how they ate egg salad for a week after that.
Now, Scher lives in Cornelius with his family and spends Seders with friends in the area or at Lake Norman Jewish Congregation. He tries to duplicate the service he had growing up as much as possible.
Scher said that he only knows how to cook for 20, so he often invites friends to celebrate with him, Lisa and Sam. He looks forward to a time when Sam can look for the Afikomen, which means dessert. Traditionally, a piece of matzah is hidden for the children to find near the end of the service. It is a fun pastime. This year Passover begins March 30.