How Is This Seder Different?

A selection of seder customs from around the world

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In Morocco, the enactment came at the end of the meal, when the participants quoted, "So you shall eat it: your loins girded…" (Exodus 12:11). Dramatizations extended to the synagogue also, where in some places in Eastern Europe, water was sprinkled on the floor during Shirah [reading about the parting of the Sea of Reeds in the Torah] on the seventh day. The people in the congregation took off their shoes to dip their toes into the water to experience the sea.

From the custom in Kurdistan ofbinding a ketubah (Jewish marriage contract) to the bride's arm, the practice developed of tying the afikoman to the arm of a son the parents hoped would marry, wishing that the symbolic act would lead in the coming year to his binding a ketubah on his new bride's arm.

Other folk beliefs surround the symbolic piece of cracker. In Asia, Iran, North Africa, and Greece, Jews kept a piece of the afikoman in their pockets or houses for good luck during the year, sometimes making a small hole in it so it could be hung like an amulet. Keeping the remains of the afikoman in rice, flour, and salt was thought by the Jews of Kurdistan to protect them against the depletion ofthese staples.

The Moroccans in particular believed this matzah had the power to safeguard them during ocean travel, and would throw it into the water to calm it in a storm. (They based the superstition on an appropriate verse from Psalms [54:9], whose first letters in Hebrew spell the word matzah.) Some believed that if kept for seven years, it could stop floods. Others attributed to it the capacity to stop fire and, when held in hand, to protect a woman and infant during childbirth.

Culinary Customs

Some Moroccan families would not eat black olives for the entire month of Nisan. They believed the fruit caused forgetfulness, and Nisan was the month in which the Jews were commanded to remember the Exodus. Calling the evening of seder Leil (Night) a/- Rosh (of the Heads), they customarily ate sheep heads in remembrance of the paschal sacrifice.

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Lesli Koppelman Ross is a writer and artist whose works have appeared nationally. She has devoted much of her time to the causes of Ethiopian Jewry and Jewish education.