GALEN HOLLEY: Jewish Temple B’Nai Israel celebrates the Passover Seder

By Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal

Marc Perler, the temple’s lay rabbi, began the invocation Tuesday night, as his wife, Polly, lit a candle. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,” he said. “From bondage to freedom, from darkness to light.”
The Jewish faithful, seated around tables inside Park Heights Restaurant on this, the second evening of Passover, responded. “Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu melech ha’olam,” they said. “Blessed are you, Lord our God, king of the universe.”
“Our story begins with degradation, our telling ends with glory,” said Perler.
Seven-year-old LeRoy Carman read from the haggadah, the order of worship for the seder. “Why is this night different from all other nights?” he asked.
The answer is that on this night the members of Temple B’Nai Israel ate unleavened bread, made in the haste of the Exodus, and bitter herbs, dipped in salt water. “Tears of affliction,” said Perler.
Don Kartiganer played his guitar and sang so beautifully it squeezed the heart.
“Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away,” he sang, in both English and Hebrew, from the Song of Songs.
Friends of the temple came from near and far. Like Dr. Phil Gorden, who came with his wife, Vivian, from Bethesda, Md. Gorden’s father came to Coffeeville from Russia in 1921 and opened a dry-goods store.
“No liberation is easy,” said Perler. “Our rejoicing at the liberation of our ancestors should be tempered by the memory of the suffering of the oppressor and the oppressed.”
As Perler recited each of the 10 Plagues, members removed a drop of wine from their glasses and dabbed it onto saucers.
Betsy Brown made a little “Hillel sandwich” using charoset, a sweet, pasty concoction, made with dates and nuts, symbolizing the mortar Jews were forced to use in building Pharaoh’s cities. She spread it over two pieces of matzah, or unleavened bread, along with bitter herbs, called maror.
“We take into ourselves the joys and sorrows of the ages,” said Perler.
For the main course, the restaurant staff brought out aromatic plates of Moroccan chicken, filling the room with the spicy, exotic scent of northern Africa.
The prayer paused as the feast began, and temple members laughed and told stories, one about a Jewish reporter for the Commercial Appeal who came to Tupelo in 1979 to cover racial unrest. He was a guest in several members’ homes.
Four cups of wine set the pace of the evening, representing Yahweh’s four promises of liberation in Exodus 6: 6-7: “I will bring you out from under Egypt’s yoke.” “I will deliver you from their bondage.” “I will redeem you with outstretched arm.” “I will take you to be my people.”
“But there is a fifth promise,” said Perler. “ ‘I will bring you into the land.’ Should there then be a fifth cup? That question, says tradition, will not be answered until Elijah comes to proclaim the Messianic time.”
Meanwhile, Perler said, it is a promise we remember with a cup from which we cannot drink, “until all the world is redeemed from pain, injustice and denial of love.”
When, Perler asked, will that time come?

Contact Daily Journal religion editor Galen Holley at 678-1510 or

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