Jesus, liberation and the Seder orange:

By Tressa Versteeg

This week marked the end of one religious season and the beginning of another. While some students partcipated in services culminating the end of Lent, others gathered to mark the start of Passover. The Mac Weekly sat down with Mac Protestant member Mary Neely ’11 and MJO?member Sarah Moskowitz ’09 to learn the basics about these traditions.Interview with Mary Neely

TMW: What is Lent?
Mary Neely: Lent is the period of 40 days before Easter and its supposed to represent the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness and was tempted by the Devil. At least in the Protestant tradition, or at least how I grew up, it’s a time for reflection on your faith and meditation on that kind of thing.

TMW: What are some of the types of things that people to do observe Lent?
MN:?Well, I think what most people are familiar with is giving something up for Lent. Sacrificing something during Lent is one way to observe Jesus’ trial. Or some people, instead of doing that, they make a goal of doing something each day. Like this year instead of giving something up, I try to make a special point of taking time for prayer and mediation each day. Then, there’s services during Holy Week at the end of Lent for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and of course Easter, and Palm Sunday the weekend before that. At Mac. the Vespers services every Sunday have had a Lent theme within the liturgy.

TMW: Let’s back track to Ash Wednesday. What is that?
MN:?Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent.You always have a service, and it marks the beginning of the Lenten journey of reflection and meditation. The pastor or priest puts a cross on your forehead with ashes and say something to the effect of, “From dust you came and to dust you shall return.”

TMW: Can explain the days of Holy Week?
MN: Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week and is the Sunday before Easter and it’s when Jesus arrives into Jerusalem. Kids wave palm leaves and traditionally the ashes used for Ash Wednesday are made from palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. Maundy Thursday is the Last Supper where Jesus administers the first communion and its also when Jesus washes the disciples’ feet and gives the commandment of “Do unto others as you would have unto you,” and this sort of greater lesson. Good Friday is when Jesus was crucified and Easter Sunday is when the women go to the tomb to tend to his body and find that he has risen.

TMW: What are some of your personal traditions in Lent and Easter?
MN: During high school I usually gave something up, like soda or chocolate or that kind of thing. I stopped doing that for a while because it stopped having significance for me and just felt like I was doing it just to do it.. At home on Good Friday we had a Tenebrae service. When you get to the part in the liturgy where Jesus dies, they toll a bell and slowly all the lights are turned off and you spend time in silence and darkness.

TMW: What is something about the season that means a lot to you during this time?
MN:?I’ll really miss being with my family, and it’s such a big part of the year for us. I’ll alsomiss is the music in my church that we would always sing during Easter. We’d have a big cantata on Palm Sunday, and it’s kind of superficial, but the music we would sing during Maundy Thursday is “Ave Verum” and its always been very moving to me.

TMW: Why is this religious season important?
MN:?The hope for the Lent season is that people take the time to reflect on their faith and what this time means to them personally, rather than just going through the motions of the season. It makes Easter Sunday, which is always a joyful occasion, that much more special, if you’ve taken the time to think and meditate on how your faith interacts with your life

Interview with Sarah Moskowitz

TMW: What is the Seder meal?
Sarah?Moskowitz: Seder literally means “order,” and it is a step by step process to commemorate Passover. Our Seder typically takes about three hours but it depends. Sometimes they start at eight or nine and go until three in the morning, some will take 15 minutes. Passover is really family based and people are used to what their own family does and it just depends, which is a challenge especially in this type of community where everyone comes from different traditions. Basically it commemorates our liberation from slavery.

TMW: What are some of the traditions within the meal?
SM:?You’re supposed to drink four cups of wine throughout the Seder. You’ll see the number four repeating throughout the Seder, like the four questions. The youngest person at the Seder is supposed to ask the questions, basically asking why Passover is different from all other nights, what distinguishes it from the rest of the year and from other holidays. At Macalester and we don’t really have that generational difference, so we have the first-years ask the four questions. It’s a thing that every first year dreads and does, and gets it over with. We also have Elijah’s cup. Elijah is a famous prophet and you fill a cup of wine for Elijah and you put it by the door. A more feminist representation is to put Miriam’s cup out as well. One of thing we do at Macalester and something more progressive Seders will do, is on the Seder plate-which has a lot of different things that represent slavery, bondage, liberation and spring time-we put on an orange. I don’t know who it was but someone once said, “A woman belongs on the bema (which is like a pulpit in Judaism) like an orange belongs on a Seder plate.” So we buy oranges and put them on our Seder plates to stick it to that guy.

TMW: How is the Seder at Macalester different from other Seders?
SM:?Seder dinner/services are known for being very large. You’ll have extended family fly in for Passover, especially because it lasts for eight days and there are such intense dietary restrictions. It’s a coming together, an important gathering point for people. I think one of the most challenging things for us at every service that we do, is that you’re not with your family..and we have people coming from such different backgrounds. My family is orthodox, but people come from conservative, reform, Reconstructionist, and so on. It can be really challenging if you come from areas that are more traditional or progressive to adapt, but I think we do a good job of trying to keep it to sort of middle ground. [Enter Daniel Picus ’10, to Daniel:] Am I missing something? We were liberated from Egypt-am I good on that?
DP: It’s a feast of freedom and spring time. Normally it’s just in Israel that its springtime for Passover. Typically in Minnesota it doesn’t normally work out, but we’ve kind of got it this year.

What is your favorite part of the Seder?
SM: One of the items on the Seder plate is the bitter herbs to help remind you how bitter slavery was. In my family, we all kind of attempt to the put the most amount of bitter herb, and it’s like intense and it burns, it’s like the Moskowitz family bitter herb-off.

DP: Do you just do the horseradish?
DP: Yeah, so do we. And I didn’t realize that other people use the stuff in beet juice.

SM: That’s not bitter herbs! That’s sweet… I always get a kick out of the fact that my family tries to outdo each other when it comes to bitter herbs, it’s kind of funny.
Anything else you’d like to add?
DP:.In every generation, every Jew is supposed to act as if they themselves were liberated from Egypt. So that’s why we do it this way with the symbols that are so tangible and engage the sense is because we are trying to relive it and not just remember it.