Passover Love Song: A Poem

A few years ago, while I was in the middle of preparing for Passover, I sat down and wrote this. I wanted to find a way to convey to my children why Passover, and the enormous amount of preparation for it, was so important to me, why it mattered, and how although I spent so much time on the food and preparing the house, it wasn’t really about that.  This poem was included in The Torah: A Women’s Commentary and has been used at many congregational and women’s seders since then.  Shortly after that it was translated into Hebrew by Dr. Tzvia Walden, and I hear that it used in quite a few seders in Israel now too.  That’s been a surprise but is a pretty cool thing.

Since it was written, it’s already become a moment frozen in time as Passover in our house has continued to evolve and change.  Nothing stays the same, and nothing is ever done exactly the same way again.  Little changes happen every year until you step back and realize just how much it has all shifted.   Grief and illness, marriages and births, college acceptances and new jobs all impact on the guest list, the menu, the conversation.  That too is part of our ongoing story.

26907_379886335821_1042308_nPassover Love Song  

The seder is a love song written

in the language of silver polish

and dishpan hands

freshly grated lemon zest

blanched almonds

ground pecans

shelled pistachios

pitted olives

sliced meat

matzah meal

white tablecloths

to-do lists

trips to Boro Park and Sahadi’s

This is how it’s done.


ashkenazi haroset

vegetarian chopped liver

my mother’s real chopped liver

Bonnie’s matzah ball soup

Israeli salad

gefilte fish terrine

chesnut farfel stuffing


leek and shallot kugel

salmon in grape leaves with pine nuts

turkey and brisket

coconut macaroons

sephardic lemon pistachios cookies

pecan meringues

chocolate dipped apricots




tables stretched the length of the house

tulips on the mantle

my grandmother’s blue glass plates

Aunt Hannah and Uncle Joe’s silver

Nana’s candlesticks

the silver salt bowls from my mother

Frieda and Solly’s cut-glass horseradish pot

the wedding present seder plate

grape juice stains on the tablecloth

thin paperback hagaddot

our mismatched family of friends

silly half-versions of songs

and don’t lick the wine from your finger after the plagues


Don’t be fooled by the easy domesticity of these words.

This is more than a recipe for nostalgia.

This is an urgent coded message of     survival



 Read between the words.


© 2007 by Hara E. Person.  All rights reserved.

This poem originally appeared in The Torah: A Women’s Commentary (URJ Press, 2008).  

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1 Comment

Filed under Judaism, Passover, Seder

One Response to Passover Love Song: A Poem

  1. Katie

    This poem gave me chills.. you say so clearly why I love the passover my mother in law has presided over for 40 years. Thank you.

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