Ha tomato anya: This is the tomato of our affliction

from an image by flickr user photon_de

Our weekly(-ish) editorials at New Voices are created by the New Voices editorial board, which consists of myself and two other editors. This week, as longtime readers of this blog’s predecessor will no doubt suspect, the idea to use our editorial as a chance to discourage people from putting the whole damn produce section on their seder plate was entirely mine. But, as always, the editorial we ended up with was a team effort.

Anyway, read it:

Behold the tomato: the new world fruit, the staple of Italian cuisine, juicy, red and a member of the nightshade family.

And, because of the often mistreated migrant workers who pick them, some say it should be the latest addition to that growing pile of produce on your Passover seder plate. (And when we say “that growing pile of produce on your seder plate,” we mean, that bushel overrunning your seder plate, overflowing its edges, truly in need of an auxiliary seder plate.)

If you follow the suggestion of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America (a branch of the Israel-based organization that is exactly what it sounds like) by adding a tomato to your Passover shopping list, your tomato will be “a symbol of the farmworker who picked it.” And perhaps it will join the already relatively venerable Miriam’s Cup or some of these other foods that have been suggested over the years:

  • Potato peelings (what Jewish ritual would be complete without some extraneous bit of Holocaust-obsession tacked on?)
  • A fourth piece of matzah (which has variously been used to represent DarfurSoviet Jewry, and others)
  • More potato (for Ethiopians, obviously)
  • An olive (to symbolize the hope for peace in the Middle East)
  • An orange (in recognition of the historical exclusion of women — its origin, by the way, is not what you think it is)
  • An artichoke (for interfaith families)
  • A plantain (for oppression in Cuba — no word yet on whether it’s for internal Cuban-on-Cuban oppression or the economic oppression of the U.S. trade embargo)
  • And — are you ready for this? — an oyster (for Deepwater Horizon)

And the list grows beyond food: There is also the brick that a Civil War soldier used in place of charoset and the empty picture frame for the Chinese law that prohibits the display of images of the Dalai Lama!

Passover and the seder are unique among Jewish holiday rites. It is by far the most complex Jewish in-home ritual. And it is by far the most widely observed Jewish holiday — not just by Jews, but by non-Jewish members of intermarried families, non-Jewish friends of Jewish families, African American groups who often cosponsor “freedom seders” with Jewish groups and, of course, the (somewhat misguided) efforts of church groups trying to understand what Jesus’ last meal was like.


Now go read the rest of it at New Voices. And like our Facebook page while you’re at it.


, , , , , ,

11 Responses to Ha tomato anya: This is the tomato of our affliction

  1. Reb Yudel April 5, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

    Sorry to see that you omitted mention of Hadassah Gross’s apple on the Seder plate. Does that mean you approve of it?

    • David A.M. Wilensky April 6, 2012 at 4:22 pm #

      Of course, I’m a huge fan of the Rebbetzin Hadassah Gross — have been ever since that Purim situation at Romemu last year — but I hadn’t heard about her latest video until you mentioned it. Of course, I’ve now watched it and made a post about it at New Voices.

    • Rich April 8, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

      Oh please,like anyone can get them all.  There was one year I was left thinking, between the empty chair for Gilad Shalit, the empty chair for Darfur, the empty chair for displaced Palestinians and the empty chair for evacuees of Gush Katif that if I heeded every call for empty chairs, my  Seder guests would all have to stand.
      I don’t put anything on my Seder Plate that it doesn’t have a well for.  I do have a Miriam’s cup, but a) there’s midrashic material one can use with it, b) my wife came up with a sensible ritual for use with it, and c) said wife’s Hebrew name is Miriam.

      • David A.M. Wilensky April 9, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

        Please tell us about your wife’s sensible ritual for use with Miriam’s cup!

        • Rich April 11, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

          It is set to the table filled.  At the end of the Maggid, after the recounting of the plagues (and of the splitting of the sea if the haggaddah contains it) we recount the Midrash in which Miriam’s well appears, and pass the cup around, adding a bit of its water to our glasses to represent sustenance from our tradition.  We will later, during the “redemption” bit of the Seder each add a bit of our wine to the Elijah’s cup that is sitting empty on the table, to represent that redemption is something in which we all have a role.

          • David A.M. Wilensky April 12, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

            Oh, that’s terrific! I’ve always been bothered by the presence of Miriam’s cup without an accompanying act.

          • Kerry April 13, 2012 at 9:06 am #

            Oh, that’s very good! We passed it around and all took a sip from it – yours is the same idea but without the backwash and icking out people who worry about communicable diseases, which is a definite plus.

            • David A.M. Wilensky April 15, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

              I dunno. Icking out those people sounds like a plus to me.

            • Rich April 16, 2012 at 12:28 am #

              Read your a comment to my wife who notes that we do try to reduce the “ick” factor as much as we can.


  1. Boycott non-union Chazeret! (This post in honor of Cesar Chavez and his stand against seder plate nonsense) | David A.M. Wilensky - April 12, 2012

    […] This is a joke, obviously — and something of a follow up to “Ha Tomato Anya.” […]

  2. Making Miriam’s Cup make more sense | David A.M. Wilensky - April 12, 2012

    […] Rich suggests: It is set to the table filled.  At the end of the Maggid, after the recounting of the plagues […]