Celebrating a Shamrock Seder

shamrock sederby Lynne McMullan Allebach, Arise Community Outreach

What happens when you cross St. Patrick’s Day and a Jewish Passover Seder?  Everyone who attended Arise in Harleysville on Sunday, March 17, found out as Robin Burstein, Executive Director of the Encore Experience of Harleysville, led the group through a “Shamrock Seder.”

Originally planned as a “Nacho Typical” Seder featuring a Southwestern flavor, the Seder evolved into a Shamrock Seder after Robin learned that St. Patrick, like the Israelites in Egypt, had been taken captive and lived as a slave for a number of years as a young man before escaping and returning to his family. Patrick’s story was a good lead into the beginning of the Seder.

Robin explained about the four glasses of wine (for us, grape juice) that are poured as part of the Seder to represent the four stages of the Exodus:

The first glass of wine represents freedom.  We were instructed to break one of the matzos on the table. As the matzos was broken, we were invited to consider what may be “broken” in our world and what we could do as individuals and as a community to make the broken whole again. When had we felt like we were a slave to something?  What had led us to great moments of liberation in our lives?  Just as the Jews are called to remember their liberation from slavery in Egypt during the Passover Seder, we can look for those places in our lives where God has led us to freedom.

The second glass of wine represents deliverance.  At this point in the Seder we were invited to prepare a sandwich to remember the bitterness of slavery in Egypt with maror (horseradish) mixed with the hope of the Promised Land represented by charoset (apples, nuts, and honey) served on the unleavened bread (matzos).  We were led in a recounting of the ten plagues that beset the Egyptians because of Pharaoh’s refusal to let the Israelites go.  This was done by dipping a finger in the wine and dripping a drop of wine, much like falling tears, onto our plates.  Where can we see bitterness in our lives transformed by God’s deliverance today?

shamrock seder
Matzo bread at Arise’s Shamrock Seder.

At this point in the Seder a meal is served.  The Seder is a meal of remembrance and we remembered St. Patrick as we enjoyed a baked potato bar.  We were reminded that a potato famine in Ireland led to an exodus of many of its citizens.  Hardships have been experienced by many different people groups; as we see the similarities in our own stories, we see that we are not that different from one another.

The meal was followed by the third glass of wine, which represents redemption.  Before drinking, we were instructed to each eat a piece of the broken matzos known as the Afikomen.  This was followed by a prayer of blessing and another question – how do we get in the habit of freely expressing gratitude?

Finally, the last glass of wine, representing release, was poured.  A cup was also poured for the prophet Elijah.  It is traditionally believed that he will come at Passover to herald the Messiah, so in anticipation, a door is opened to look for him and someone is sent to the door to invite him in.  One of our group went to the door to look for Elijah and we all waited eagerly to see who might come in to join us. Despite the fact that Elijah did not come to our Seder, we still poured some of our own wine into his cup with our wish for the world in the coming year.

In the Seder we remembered the four stages of the Exodus – freedom, deliverance, redemption, and release.  All of these promises are ours today through Christ, who celebrated the Seder with his disciples that very first Holy Week.  His broken body is our matzo bread and his blood is the wine we drink in remembrance of our deliverance from our own Egypts.