The Eleventh Plague

April 10, 2020

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What is Passover without a plague? This year, an 11th plague!

Passover is also called the second New Year. It often arrives at the same time as Nowrooz, New Day, the spring holiday that is celebrated in Iran, my country of birth.

Judaism draws numerous customs from Zoroastrianism, the faith of our Persian savior Cyrus, the Great, who freed the Jewish people from our Babylonian exile and welcomed us to Persia, today’s Iran.

Like Passover, Nowrooz celebrates the arrival of spring, the rebirth of life, the rebirth of land. This is the day that Ahriman, the demon of death and destruction, of the cold of winter and barren lands, is defeated by Ahouramazd, the protector God. The seedlings pop out of earth; leaves and flowers cover the trees once more; hope returns to the inhabitants of this earth.

I spent my younger years in Shiraz, just 20 minutes drive from the site of Persepolis, where Cyrus resided as a king. For the Seders, we sat around a sofreh, a decorated cloth, spread over the Persian carpet in the living room. There was always a tray of sprouted mung beans, which we had labored for weeks to have ready for Passover. Other Persians created sprouted wheat trays, but wheat was forbidden during Passover; beans were ok. We are Mizrachim; we eat rice and most beans during Passover.

There were other signs of spring: rhubarb, green herbs, fresh fava beans, green onions, and kangar, a wild thorny green that grew in the mountains. We ate all the greens, but used green onions to have fun with, beating each other playfully during Dayenou to symbolically reenact our slavery, to keep the evil away, and to celebrate the renewal of life, the rebirth of land.

The Zoroastrian motto, Good Deeds, Good Words, Good Thoughts are meant to be the weapon against Ahriman’s death and destruction. As we approach the celebration of Passover this year, cleaning and renewing ourselves, let us push away Ahriman’s plague through Tzedakah, Kind Words, and Positive Thinking.

May this Passover bring the promise of renewal and health for us all.
–Farideh Goldin

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