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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Passover Lamb, Kulich, and Colomba

Some would say we have a schizo household. Yes, we celebrate Passover and Resurrection Day (some call it Easter). For us, it’s not a contradiction in terms, but a fulfillment of the true meaning of the Passover Lamb.

Whatever your family celebrates, the spiritual aspect of both holidays seems to be on the wane in many hearts and minds, as well as stores’ displays. Everything revolves around the Easter bunny, colored eggs, and yellow Peeps.

Our family has a lot of ground to cover when it comes to holidays. We have the Jewish connection through our mothers’ sides of the family, the Italian and Russian connections through our fathers’ sides. (Not that the Jewish side was stateless: my mom’s family was also Russian and Benedetto’s mom’s side was Slovak.) In springtime terms, that means there will be kulich (Russian Easter bread) and sirnaya pascha (Russian cheesecake-like dessert), along with an Italian columba (another cakey bread in the form of a dove, preferably chocolate).

This makes it a bit tricky during the days of unleavened bread. Doesn’t appear right to have matzah on the seder table next to the matzoh ball soup, cheek by jowl with a yeasty Easter bread. So we hold off on the cakey bread till a more opportune time, after Passover.

But Passover as a mainstream holiday seems to be disappearing. Unless you live in a predominantly Jewish enclave, it is being wiped from the holiday marketing lineup. Everywhere I look, there is nary a Passover greeting card to be found. The biggest store selections span between one to two cards total: one being childish, the second usually being silly.

Personally, I enjoy picking out thoughtful and elegant holiday greetings. I remember the beautiful cards I sent in the past to family or friends. They had traditional greetings:  “Next Year in Jerusalem!” “Best Wishes for a Happy and Kosher Passover!”  “Once We Were Slaves, But Now We Are Free!”

Maybe it’s the economy, or the general malaise of the masses, but presently, I’d be hardpressed to even come up with a card “May Your Matzoh Balls Be Moist”, or young Moses as a child practicing parting the waters of his backyard swimming pool in preparation for the Exodus out of Egypt. At least our local supermarkets carry boxes of matzah and the occasional jar of gefilte fish, so we’re somewhat still in business, when it comes to Pessach.

On the Passover Seder night, the youngest male child traditionally asks in Hebrew, “What makes this night different from all other nights?” Pasha was practicing his lines for days on end and naturally twisted them during his big Moment of Truth: “What makes this different–nyet–what different makes night–nyet–how is a different–nyet… he tried over and over again as my eyes rolled back in disbelief. He had aced it during our mock rehearsals. Oh well. We laugh and help him out: “Mah nishtanah ha’laila ha’zeh min kol ha’lailot?”  What makes this night different from all other nights?

Well, I’ll tell you what makes it different: Lamb cannot be found anywhere this side of a bedouin’s tent, nor a children’s petting zoo. Go into most any supermarket and lamb is not on the menu. Now observant families eat brisket, or chicken, or who knows, probably even sushi, but lamb for the most part is long gone or exhorbitant in price. Since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, lamb is generally not featured for Passover, except for the shank bone sitting on the ceremonial plate. What kind of meshuganeh tradition is that?

Our family is bucking the trend. It’s just not kosher to skip the Passover lamb, in my opinion. Not that anyone knows or cares that lamb is not always kosher. Most people, when they think of lamb, imagine a leg of lamb. However, the leg comes from the hindquarters of the animal and is therefore, not kosher to eat unless butchered in a very specific way. What happens to all these legs of lamb? They end up on someone’s Easter table, roasted with rosemary, or accompanied by mint jelly. A win-win situation for those from every faith.

Yet, many Gentiles have gone the way of “the other white meat”, replacing the Easter lamb with the Easter ham. Seems sacreligious to me, but then there are very few religious Easter cards anymore, either. You’d have to go to a Bible bookstore to get anything beyond pictures of chocolate eggs and springtime flowers. If we truly want to be contemporary, might as well create a card about getting wasted during spring break in Florida, or maimed in Mexico during a university getaway/drug cartel shootout. How in the world drugs and drunkenness have become synonymous with what were once meaningful holy days is beyond me. That’s where the Easter bunny has taken us.

Makes us look rather normal by comparison. For our family, this is a happy time of year, full of purpose and promise, worship and wonder, cooking and crowds around the table. Yeshua (Jesus), our Passover Lamb, has made all things new. We celebrate His sacrifice, leading to our forgiveness and freedom from the slavery of sin. Because of this new life, the resurrection is not a leap of faith for us. It’s reality.

May you know His peace and renewal this Pessach. He is risen indeed.

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