Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Long Reach of Passover

Today was spent catching up from being out for the first and second day of Passover. After comparing Seder experiences over Skype with an Israeli customer, I switched my focus to a group chat with another client. In the chat, a programmer from India informed the group that he had to drop off in a bit to attend Passover Dinner.

I had a moment of panic as I thought my previous conversation had leaked into the group chat. But that wasn't the case. Then I thought maybe I was misreading the message from the programmer. Nope, he really did write that he was heading off to Passover Dinner.

I had so many questions.

Sure, it's totally possible that he was Jewish. But if so, why call it a dinner and not a Seder? And why celebrate it after the rest of the Jewish community had celebrated theirs? I kicked off a private chat and politely asked what he meant.

He informed me that he was part of the Eastern Orthodox Church and that they celebrate Passover. I asked if they'd be eating matzoh at the dinner, and he explained no, they'd be eating a local adaptation: Pesaha Appam. It was unleavened bread, but made with rice.

According to the Wikipedia page, some groups burn the left over bread, just like the Torah requires you burn the left over pascal offering. Though he laughed at the idea that there would be any left overs.

A little research on the topic took me to this article

There are two states in the world where millions of people attend a Seder. One is Israel; which is the other? No single state in American has this scale of Seder-goers and Britain certainly does not come close. The answer lies in south-western India.

In case you are imagining some massive secret Jewish population, that is not the story in Kerala; the Sedarim there are organized by Christians. The state is home to around four million St. Thomas Christians, also known as Mar Thoma Nasranis and every spring they hold a family-based celebration involving unleavened bread, reading the Book of Exodus and praying. Sound familiar?

Who knew?

I explained to him that for me, Passover was not one night, but 8 days long and that we'd go all 8 days without eating unleavened bread. Not to be outdone, he mentioned that for 50 days prior to Easter they eat no meat or fish. I guess I'll stick with my 8 day regimen, thank you very much.

Incidentally, India has some fascinating Jewish History, including Jews that have been there well over 1,000 years.

Whether you celebrate the holiday for 1 night or 8 days, may it be a time of peace and joy. L'Chaim!

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