For the Easter weekend, this sample chapter from Simply Eat tells Lynne Bradley’s story of how celebrating the Passover with her Jewish family as a girl first sparked faith for her in the gospel. Plus, there’s a lovely family recipe for traditional Jewish chicken soup!
I have such fond memories of eating the Passover meal at my grandparents’ home as a child. My paternal grandfather, Aaron, led the Seder (the telling) of the Exodus story, but each one of us took part in reading a small portion of the tale. Passover united our family in a special way. Aunts, uncles and cousins I didn’t often see sat round a large oak table; four generations reading the Old Testament together.
Inviting smells from the special food wafted from the kitchen. In pride of place on the table was the Seder plate containing six items that have a significant meaning. Firstly, a lamb shank bone, reminding us of the Passover lamb; a roasted egg, representing new life or sacrifice; salt water, representing the tears and sweat of enslavement; bitter herbs (maror), reminding us of the hard life the Israelites suffered under Pharaoh. Then there is charoset, a delicious mixture of nuts, apples and wine, representing mortar used to make bricks. Finally, parsley (karpas) representing spring and the hyssop branches used to put the blood on the doorposts of the Israelites’ homes. In addition, there is unleavened bread (matzos), for all yeast must be removed from the house. And no Jewish meal would be complete without chicken soup, the recipe being handed down from mother to daughter for generations!
We also drank four symbolic cups of wine during the meal, representing the four expressions of deliverance promised by God to the Israelites in Exodus 6:6–7. The first, the cup of sanctification (‘I will bring you out’), the second, the cup of proclamation (‘I will free you’), the third, the cup of redemption (‘I will redeem you’), and the fourth, the cup of praise (‘I will take you’).
These family Passover celebrations were wonderful times of laughter, reconnecting and exchanging stories. Instead of having to be quiet during the meal, we kids were encouraged to speak and ask questions. I was so grateful when my younger cousin was old enough to join in because, as the youngest, Passover tradition had meant that it fell to me to ask the special question, ‘Why is this night different from all other nights?’, and I was pleased someone else would now have to do it!
It gave Grandpa great pride to have the whole family around his table, and his eyes would twinkle as he handed around the four cups of wine, even to us children, and told the story in answer to our questions. By the end of the meal we were all convulsed in laughter as we sang the familiar Passover songs. But as soon as we got into the car for the journey home, my brother and I would be fast asleep until we arrived, well after midnight.
I owe a debt of gratitude to the enthusiasm of my grandfather. Those precious memories of his love of retelling the Israelites’ journey to freedom to his family gave me the desire to read the Old Testament, drawing me close to God. And it was during a Passover meal that I realised Jesus was the true Passover Lamb, the promised Messiah of the Jews.
Now, I have the honour of sharing about Jesus from a Jewish perspective in Passover services with churches.
Chicken Soup Serves 4 to 6
- 1 medium boiling chicken or 4 joints of chicken
- 10 cups water
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 medium onions 4/5 carrots
- 2 sticks celery
- 1⁄2 teaspoon pepper Matzo balls
1. Trim fat from chicken, but don’t remove skin.
2. Place chicken in a large saucepan. Add water and salt and bring to boil over high heat, removing scum occasionally from surface.
3. Add the onions, carrots and celery to soup, reduce heat and simmer, partly covered, for 1 hour.
4. Add pepper, and salt to taste. Simmer for a further 15 minutes, then remove from heat and cool.
5. Strain soup, reserving the vegetables and chicken. Refrigerate overnight.
6. Next day, discard layer of fat from surface of soup. Remove skin from chicken and dice meat for soup.
7. Reheat soup and add reserved vegetables, diced chicken and cooked Matzo balls.
Watch Lynne’s incredible story here!