'On Passover '

STORY TIME

April 19, 2000|By Cathy Goldberg Fishman

Editor's note: One girl follows her senses and asks questions about all she encounters during the Passover celebration.

I hear my father singing in a deep, rumbly voice. "Dy-dy-enu, dy-dy-enu," he sings in Hebrew. "It would be enough." His song is loud and happy. I know it is time to get ready for Passover. I help my mother carry boxes out of the closet. Every year I help and every year I ask, "What's in this box?"

"Use your eyes and find out," my mother always answers.

So I do. Very carefully, I cut the string, lift the lid and I can see Passover! I see the Seder plate, decorated with pictures of parsley, bitter herbs, an egg and a roasted bone -- for springtime, sorrow, life and ancient traditions. I see the dishes and pots and pans that we use only on Passover. In another box I find I find a candle, a feather and a spoon.

This year I ask another question: "What is Passover?"

"Passover is a Jewish holiday," Mother says. "For one whole week during the Hebrew month of Nisan we will eat special Passover food on special Passover dishes. We'll clean the house very carefully and remove all of the leavened bread that we eat every day."

That night we light the candle and carry it around the darkened house. The flame sends shadow people dancing on the walls as the feather sweeps forgotten bits of leavened bread into the spoon. I see the candle glowing as we welcome Passover.

If Passover had only things to see, I think, dyenu -- it would be enough. But Passover has things to smell, too.

I smell chicken soup and gefilte fish. I smell apples, nuts and cinnamon. I smell spring as the earth welcomes new life.

If Passover had only things to see and things to smell, I think, dyenu -- it would be enough. But Passover has things to taste.

The crunchy matzah crumbles dryly on my tongue and I can taste Passover!

This year I ask them: "Why do we eat this food on Passover?"

"When we escaped from Egypt," they answer, "we were in such a hurry that we didn't have time to let our bread rise or cook properly. We called it matzah, the bread of freedom.

If Passover had only things to see and things to smell and things to taste, I think, dyenu -- it would be enough. But Passover has things to hear.

I open the Haggadah, the Passover service book, and I can hear Passover! I hear my father say the blessing over the matzah. He breaks off half and goes to hide it.

"The child who finds this afikomen," he says, "will get a present." But I know that he will have presents for everyone.

"Mah nish-ta-nah ha-ly-lah ha-zeh." I hear my brother sing his questions.

This year I ask my brother: "What are you singing?"

"I am singing the Four Questions," he answers. "They ask why this night is different from all other nights."

"Yes," says my father. "It's very important that we celebrate Passover every year. Every year we talk about what happened when we were slaves. We talk about it so we'll remember not to mistreat others."

If Passover had only things to see and things to smell and things to taste and things to hear, I think, dyenu -- it would be enough. But Passover has things to feel.

I stretch out my arms and let my fingers stroke the silken matzah cover. I can feel Passover!

"What else is Passover?" I ask.

"Passover is a time for you to ask questions, listen to the answers and for all of you to find the afikomen," says Father with a smile.

We look and look throughout the house and I find the afikomen and we all get our Passover presents.

My father says that Passover is a time to ask questions. So I do. And I listen to the answers. But this year I think that Passover is most of all a wonderful feeling in my heart, dyenu.

And next year it will be the same.

Excerpted from the book ON PASSOVER. Text copyright (c) 1997 by Cathy Goldberg Fishman. Illustrations copyright (c) 1997 by Melanie W. Hall. Reprinted by permission of Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc., Children's Publishing Division. All rights reserved.

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