Finding Deeper Parallels During Passover

March 25, 2015

As children, we often beg our parents to read us the same book over and over again. Why is that? Maybe because we loved that we knew the ending and what to expect. Maybe because (well at least in my case) I thought I knew how to read since I just memorized the words. Maybe because it was familiar and we grew a certain fondness for the characters.

In a few days, Jews of every age, from every continent, will replicate the storytelling experience of our youth and prepare to sit down at the obligatory Passover meal, known as the Seder. But why would we emulate the behavior of our youth and re-read a story that happened thousands of years ago year after year? The answer is simple: because it still has implications for our modern day lives and is a reminder of our notable past. We can always learn a new lesson from our ancestors, even though their struggles may have been different from ours, challenges are still challenges.

The Seder is a traditional holiday meal, but with a twist. The Hebrew word “Seder” translates to “order” in English. There are a precise set of rituals and readings that need to be followed in a specific way from start to finish. Singing, consumption of four glasses of wine, and symbolic foods are all part of the routine. Each item consumed is not chosen at random, but rather, has meaning and immense significance. For example, the hard-boiled egg represents new life. Similarly, the parsley signifies that Passover is a spring holiday when things begin to grow. By far the most familiar facet of the Seder meal is the matzah. The Zohar, known as the Jewish book of Mysticism and Madonna’s frequent go-to read, refers to matzah as the “bread of healing”.

These are all very appropriate parallels to starting a family and planning for your bundle of joy. The obvious synergies between new life and springtime growth are solid metaphors for family life, but what about the “bread of healing”? Upon deeper reflection, I came to the understanding that in addition to spiritual healing, it also embodies physical healing. In the case of genetic carrier screening, we can bring order to our lives and find out whether we inherited Jewish genetic disease mutations from our early ancestors to help us plan ahead for healthy families. Just like the Seder rituals, the order of screening also matters and should optimally be done before having children.

As you sit down to your festive Seder meal, we hope you will share the important information about Jewish genetic screening with your friends and family – you have the power to have a huge impact on someone’s life, just as your ancestors had on yours.

Headquartered in Atlanta at Emory University’s Department of Human Genetics, JScreen is a national non-profit offering at-home comprehensive and affordable genetic testing and counseling.

ReproGEN – determines risk for having a child with a genetic disease

CancerGEN – tests for genetic changes that increase risk for many types of cancer

If a person or couples’ risk is elevated, genetic counselors will privately address the results, options and resources to help plan for a healthy future.

JScreen believes that a combination of education, access to state-of-the-art testing technology, and personalized support by qualified medical professionals are key to preventing devastating genetic diseases.