Every year, Jewish people celebrate the Israelites’ Exodus from slavery in Egypt with the holiday of Pesach or Passover. The eight-day-long observance begins with two days of the seder, a discussion of the Bible’s account of the miraculous occurrences leading up to and comprising the Exodus story, as well as a commentary on the symbolism and relevance of the story to our own lives today. It is traditional to refer to the Exodus not as some historical event that happened to our distant ancestors, but something that we took part in as well. For the two nights of the seder, we say that we all, every man, woman and child at the table, walked out of the hands of bondage.
Yesterday was the first night of this year’s Passover seder, and I realized at the end of the day that everything I’d done that day had coincidentally reflected some event from the Exodus story. For instance, in the early afternoon I wandered in the desert (the desert of sunny southern California, that is!) with a friend who loves to walk just a little more than I do.
My 40 years – er, several hours of wandering ended when we reached the beach. I think when the Israelites reached the shores of the Red Sea, they must have been just as overjoyed as I was to behold the glittering water:
Later I ate the bread of poverty and persecution, i.e. matza/matzah/matzo/matzoh. This cracker-like unleavened bread represents the bread the Israelites baked in a hurry before leaving their life of slavery. They didn’t have time to let the bread rise, so now for eight straight days we Jews enjoy cardboard instead of bread. I’m sure I’ll be posting more on that later…
(This image is from Wikipedia, where I’m sure you can find a more complete explanation of matzo)
Although I didn’t experience the legendary miracle of the parting of the Red Sea yesterday, I did bear witness to a very interesting natural phenomenon, one that probably captivated ancient people when it occurred in prehistoric times. I made my mom stay up with me until 11:00 PM, when we went outside with some relatives and neighbors to watch a total lunar eclipse.
I attempted to take some pictures with my point-and-shoot camera and no tripod; I’m sure there are better pictures floating around on the internet but here’s one of mine as the earth’s shadow began to move across the brightly glowing moon:
Watching the entire shadow of the earth pass over the moon in the space of just over an hour, leaving only a dull gray ball in the sky, really made me think. It made me think about how the natural phenomenons that seem so easily explainable with today’s knowledge must have seemed so supernatural to ancient people. For some ancient religions, the moon was a god, and watching this source of nighttime light and security be eaten up by darkness must have struck fear and awe into people’s hearts. And even today, with all our science textbooks telling us in plain language why an eclipse happens, it is still a fascinating thing to watch.
For me, it displayed how small we are in the context of outer space: all the millions of rocks and trees and animals and humans; all the conflict between various nations, all the earth’s shared and contested knowledge and philosophies and thick books of history; all the day-to-day angst, the busy people rushing back and forth on urban streets gabbing irritably on their cell phones, all the individuals with their own full, busy lives that feel like the world is coming to an end if every little thing isn’t just so in their personal world… all of us were together, casting one smooth shadow on that faraway white ball in the sky. Everyone I love and…uh, don’t love so much, and all the people on every continent and remote island I’ve never heard of, and all the lions and the gazelles, were all combined together to form a single, united shape on the moon. Whether we like it or not, we are all part of the same world, and this was a very clear demonstration of that for me.
Space may be a cold, heartless place where the only image of ourselves as a planet is a dull, gray round shape on a spherical one sitting passively thousands of miles away from us. But within earth’s atmosphere, we are all connected by breathing the same air and by casting that same shadow. As one, we all spun in a slow dance between our life-providing sun and our vital moon. Even though in some areas the eclipse was not visible, the fact is everyone everywhere was and is moving as one, and everyone everywhere made up all the billions of tiny pieces of that simple, yet fantastic, shadow that covered the moon. And that should give us a warm feeling in our hearts. No matter what you believe in, you are part of the world, and the world needs you. Whether you or I went out from bondage in ancient Egypt, you and I and everyone cast one shadow on the moon last night.
And whether you observe the ritual of eight days of traditionally bad food or not, you can enjoy this yummy breakfast dish I cooked up for myself on this first morning of the holiday. This dish breaks the eating-cardboard tradition, as it doesn’t even attempt to emulate the leavened bread we miss so much for eight days. Instead, it’s made with plantain, a sort of cross between a banana and a potato that delivers, in many ways, better health benefits than either! It is high in fiber and other vitamins, and contains about twice the potassium and protein of a banana. While potatoes may have less sugar, they can also be higher in calories, especially when fried or baked and topped with fattening butter, sour cream, etcetera. I sort of stir-fried these plantains without the use of any oil or butter, making them healthier than your typical fried potato.
To add some flavor and make it a balanced meal, the seasoned plantains were paired with sweet coconut and raisins, spicy red pepper, a generous amount of wilted kale and a scrambled egg. I sprinkled the mix with some crumbled Gorgonzola cheese to add sharp flavor (and a little extra protein and calcium in this vegetarian meal didn’t hurt either!) I felt very sophisticated, cooking up something more unique and exotic than matzo farfel. I was very pleased with how the flavors worked together in harmony, just as the earth’s shadow swept across the surface of the moon in unity.
If you’re looking for a high-fiber Passover breakfast to keep those bowels moving happily, or just want to try a fresh recipe for a breakfast for one, give this recipe a try. As you cook it up, the aromatic flavors escaping from the pan might just be powerful enough to cause another lunar eclipse!
Nutrition information source: