Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Tunisian Passover Custom Ties in with This Year's Oscars

Two hundred+ years a slave(s). That's how long it took the Children of Israel to be free of their bondage.

To remember this fact, Tunisian Jews refined the Moroccan custom of holding the Seder plate on top of each person's head. Instead, they touch the head of each person with the seder plate in order to remind him/her of the unimaginable oppression and hardship slavery entails.

How does this custom tie in with this year's Oscar winner 12 Years A Slave? During the American Civil War a song was composed in 1862 called "Oh! Let My People Go." Its purpose was to serve as the anthem for Contraband -- escaped slaves who joined the Union army. At the same time church and church services served as a center for hope and solace for the slaves, who often used Gospel songs as a means of expression. The Biblical story revolving around the enslavement of the Children of Israel, and their savior Moses helped provide a feeling of faith and trust in the future. As a result "Oh! Let My People Go" evolved into one of the most popular Spirituals sung by the slaves. It's name was changed to "Go Down Moses" and it is still widely sung today by Gospel choirs.

So here's an idea for reprocessing the Tunisian custom. As the leader of the Seder touches the head of each person with the Seder plate, how about everyone singing the first stanza of "Go Down Moses."

  1. When Israel was in Egypt’s land,
    Let My people go!
    Oppressed so hard they could not stand,
    Let My people go!
    • Refrain:
      Go down, Moses,
      Way down in Egypt’s land;
      Tell old Pharaoh
      To let My people go!

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