Parsing the Meaning of Parsley
The kitchen smells amazing. I yell across the room to my childhood friend Clara, “Ooh let’s make a pesto, basil, and parsley layer!” My lasagna is finally coming together. I’m snacking on almost every ingredient in each layer, but for some reason I can’t stay away from the parsley. It has a bland taste, but I love it. I love the freshness of it, its crunch, and the meaning it has in my life. As we toss ingredients around, I suddenly blurt out, “Parsley makes me feel so Jewish.” We burst out with laughter. I couldn’t explain my connection to parsley.
Passover is my all-time favorite holiday. I love the traditions, the food, and, most of all, my family’s seders. We read the Haggadah and follow a very specific order. My family hosts a seder every year, and I remember patiently waiting as a kid (for what felt like hours) each seder to eat the food. My cousins and I would find any crumbs we could, and munch away.
My favorite part of the seder was talking about the seder plate. My parents would always ask the kids to present and explain one of the items. The parsley in particular stood out to me. During Passover, parsley is traditionally dipped in salt water to signify the pain the Israelites experienced as slaves and the tears they shed. My parents would also take this time to address a current injustice in the world. We used the parsley and salt water combination to recognize that not everyone is free from pain, and to symbolize their tears as well. Although for many years the issues they discussed flew over my head, I always listened, quietly enjoying the fresh and salty taste.
As I grew up, I learned more about the world around me, about the good and the bad. Although it was upsetting to hear about tragedies and injustices, it's part of growing up in this world. Because I had so many feelings but didn’t know what to do with them, or how to even begin having important conversations about world issues, Passover was even more important to me.
Every Passover, I continued to look forward to dipping my parsley in salt water; but, as I grew older, the reason for that changed. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed the salty taste, but I started to understand the meaning surrounding the ritual. It's so inspiring and important to me that, in my religion, we take the time to have conversations about injustices and other worldly issues. As Jews, we take time out of our holiday celebration to remember that there is still work to be done in this world, and that there are still people who are not yet free.
Parsley reminds me of my Judaism. It reminds me that I am a part of something bigger than myself. It reminds me of injustices and problems, and gives me motivation to try to make the world better. It reminds me to be grateful for everything that I have, and to fight for those who do not have the same privileges that I do. It reminds me of my Jewish morals and that we as Jews believe we aren't free until everyone is.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.
How to cite this page
Plotkin-Oren, Ella. "Parsing the Meaning of Parsley." 18 November 2019. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on March 26, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/parsing-meaning-parsley>.
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!
You essay about parsley reminds me of our family seders. I will think of your words about the world's injustices and our role to fight for equal rights whenever I use parsley in my kitchen.
I never knew you felt this way about parsley! I love your insight and connection to Judaism through it. Even though I don’t love the taste of parsley I’ll make sure to think more when I eat it next Passover :)
Although I am not the biggest fan of parsley, this article gave me a new appreciation for it!
I love that you used parsley as a way in to talk about your experience being Jewish. Brilliant! I don’t know if I’ll ever look at parsley in quite the same way. 😁