In addition to the traditional symbols of Passover – haroset, maror, parsley, and shank bone – there is a host of new symbols representing a variety of causes and philosophies.
Years ago, we added a Miriam’s Cup to our Seder table to honor the role of Miriam, Moses’ older sister (and, symbolically, the contributions of other Jewish women to our culture).
Miriam not only watched over Moses in the bulrushes, she told the Egyptian princess who found him that Yocheved, Moses’ mother, should be his nursemaid.
Passover 2017 – Sunset, Monday, April 10 through nightfall, Tuesday, April 18
And years later, when the Israelites wandered in the desert, Miriam led the women in dance. In her honor, God created a well of spring water that sustained the Israelites.
That’s why, although we fill Elijah’s Cup with wine, we fill Miriam’s Cup with water.
Our Miriam’s Cup is really a handmade pottery goblet that we bought at a local Greek festival. We love how its wavy motif reminds us of water, with flowers rising from the source of life.
In a 2013 Forward article (An Orange on Plate for Women — And Spit Out Seeds of Hate), Susannah Heschel, professor of Jewish studies at Dartmouth College, says that when we eat an orange segment, “we spit out the seeds to repudiate homophobia and we recognize that in a whole orange, each segment sticks together. Oranges are sweet and juicy and remind us of the fruitfulness of gay and lesbian Jews and of the homosociality that has been such an important part of Jewish experience.”
According to a JTA article, Non-Traditional Items Showing Up On Seder Plates, the orange has come to symbolize – more broadly – the power of Jewish women – female rabbis, the Jewish midwives in the Exodus story, gender-neutral language in prayerbooks . . .”
The article goes on to say that olives began to be included as a call for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. (Think olive branch as a symbol of peace.)
Here’s one that was new to me. Including an artichoke. Rabbi Geelz Rayzel Raphael in interfaithfamily.com suggests that this prickly vegetable “is surely a work of God’s imagination! Many petals, with thistle and a heart. To me this has come to represent the Jewish people.”
Joshua Lesser, rabbi of Congregation Bet Haverim in Atlanta, Georgia, (“For Those Still Enslaved, Tomato Symbolizes Solidarity,” Forward, March 11, 2013) suggests that the tomato “is a symbol of how much of our food still tastes like slavery.”
For our family, based on the ages of the young children, the traditional symbols + the Miriam’s Cup are a good place to be. As they get older, we will amplify the discussion of what freedom means by adding some of these newer symbols.