By Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Burt Paikoff was the first to arrive at Park Heights Restaurant, so he ordered a drink and loosened his tie, and he could smell the first, spicy whiffs of chef Greg Huerkamp’s Moroccan chicken rising like delicious smoke from a Middle Eastern village.
“Reform Jews in the U.S. use chicken instead of lamb, most of the time,” said Paikoff, as his fellow Jews began arriving and reliving memories of Seders past.
The lamb, according to the Biblical story, was to be slain and cooked in haste, and eaten with bitter herbs. Soon, the angel of death would pass over Egypt, sparing the first born of those who had obeyed God’s commands.
The Seder, from the Hebrew word meaning “order,” is not a temple celebration. Most Seders take place in the home, and, like Thanksgiving dinners, they’re tied to special family memories and the taste of traditional foods.
As dusk descended Tuesday, marking the beginning of the second “day” of Passover, old friends from Temple B’Nai Israel embraced one another. They sat down in front of plates of gefilta fish and parsley, and cups of sweet wine and salt water.
They spoke mirthful blessings over the wine, and they dipped the herbs in the water, recalling the taste of the tears their people once shed under Pharaoh’s yoke.
“On a night such as this, Israel went forth from degradation to joy,” said Marc Perler, reading from the order of worship, called the “Haggadah.”
“We give thanks for the liberations of days gone by, and we pray for all those who are still bound.”
In true Southern form, a Faulkner scholar played the guitar, and led the gathering in a dolorous rendition from the Song of Solomon.
“Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away,” they sang.
At the tables, the faithful took in their hands the charred, unleavened matzah bread and broke it, passing it around the table.
“This is the bread of affliction,” they sang in Hebrew. “Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are in need come and share.”
Six-year-old LeRoy Karman read the Four Questions, beginning with, “Why is this night different from all other nights?”
Around him, people listened as if hearing the voice of their forefather, and throughout the room candles burned, symbolizing God’s abiding care for his chosen people.
Contact Galen Holley at 678-1510 or firstname.lastname@example.org.