Celebrating the ability to move from slavery to freedom is the essence of the Jewish Passover Seder, according to Capt. Karyn Berger, chaplain rabbi of the 15th Military Intelligence Battalion, 500th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade.
The traditional meal was served Monday at the Spirit of Fort Hood Chapel. It signifies the beginning of the seven-day Passover celebration “in which Jews commemorate the exodus from Egypt and slavery,” said Berger, adding that the term “slavery” can be literal or metaphorical.
“We also in our daily lives experience spiritual slavery,” she said. “This is an opportunity for us to free ourselves.”
The Seder meal — Seder meaning “order” — follows a certain structure through which the story of the exodus is told. For example, the service begins with the “kiddush,” in which everyone proclaims the holiday’s holiness and drinking either a cup of wine or grape juice. This is the first of four cups consumed throughout the Seder.
The number four is symbolic because the Torah describes four ways of freedom.
Sedar plates consisting of bitter herbs — to symbolize the miserable life of a Hebrew slave; a roasted egg — to embody the cycle of life; and other significant foods were placed on the tables at the chapel.
Berger explained the significance of each food and took the guests step by step through the meal while they followed along by reading the Haggadah, a book of instructions. Berger said the “ritualized telling” is important because it encourages asking questions and learning.
“It’s all about learning through doing,” she said.
Seder’s roots can be traced back to Greek Hellenistic times, though Berger said rituals vary depending on family styles and traditions.
“There are more Seders than there are Jews,” she said.
Barry Malihi did most of the cooking for this year’s Seder. He said his mother taught him how to cook and that he has been busy preparing food for several days. Originally from Israel, he served three years in the Israeli army before moving to the United States in 1988.
“For me (Passover) is coming together as a community,” he said.
Shayna Nash has attended the Fort Hood Passover meal for about six years.
“I really like it, she said. “I have absolutely no people anymore so this feels like family.”
Nash’s son lives in Israel and her daughter in Cambodia.
Although the educational aspect of the Seder is valuable, it is the celebration of loved ones coming together that makes it special, Berger said
“This is all about family and being together and enjoying your time together,” she said. “It’s all about the search for meaning.”