My Most Excellent Passover
Well, if you can't be with your family for Pesach, it's a good idea to attend the seder at Beth's house. Beth and Simcha planned and implemented the best-paced, most truly meaningful seder I've been to for . . . well, ever. I say this with the confidence that comes from knowing that my parents never read my blog.
The problem with most seders is that you have to choose between meaning and timing. You either have a lot of great divrei Torah and activities to bring the story of the Exodus alive, but finish late and suffer through maggid as your stomach grumbles . . . . or you go more quickly through the rituals, but sacrifice the time one needs to really contemplate their meaning.
At Beth and Simcha's seder, after their small children asked the four questions, we did a play acting out the story. Eli (age 3 that very day) played Moshe, Neshama played Miriam, another guest played Aharon, I played God (YES!), Simcha played Pharoah, and Beth was the director. She brought in Eli from the kitchen in a plastic bin on wheels, as if he was coming down the Nile, and he even pretended to wimper on cue. We spent most of the time with me telling "Moshe" to "go tell Paroah that if he doesn't let the Jews go, I will make bad things happen! Lice! Boils! Bad things!" Upon which Eli would run to his father and say "Abba, Abba, Sarah said you have to let the Jews go! Or bad things will happen!" After a while, "Miriam" was like "I'll take care of this" and sort of took Moshe's place, because, being 4 already, she can conceptualize that I'm not Sarah, I'm Hashem. The play climaxed with the kids screaming in mixed delight and fear, as Abba/Paroah chased them and I, the river, barred their way. Finally I let them through, and we all danced in a circle, singing "Hashem saved the Jews! Hashem saved the Jews!"
Then the kids played with the plastic plague toys and the Four Questions Finger Puppets, while we grownups recited Maggid. At some point the kids were put to bed, and the rest of us recited divrei Torah during the meal, which meant we could concentrate instead of listening to our stomachs growling.
We read aloud an English translation that I'd procured at Beth's request of the 7th chapter of Hachsharat Avraychim, by the Piasetzer Rebbe (otherwise known as the Aish Kodesh, aka the rabbi of the Warsaw Ghetto). The chapter includes a sort of guided visualization encouraging readers to imagine themselves as if they were lay Jews working as slaves, and being redeemed. I'd modified the text somewhat to put it into first person, and Simcha read it aloud while the rest of us closed our eyes and pictured ourselves in Egypt.
It became a very pensive Seder. While munching on the afikoman I suddenly felt like I was there, sitting outside a tent under the stars in the desert, having just experienced the splitting of the sea . . . munching on these crackers we'd brought with us in our hurry . . . not knowing that soon the manna would start to fall, but feeling that even if this is my last meal and we're going to die of starvation in the desert, it was all worth it to have one meal as a free person, under the stars, away from the Egyptians.
We finished singing chad gadya at about 2 am, but I wasn't tired. I was on an amazing religious high. It's all about the pacing, people! I can't thank Beth and Simcha enough for an incredible experience. So I'll just say: Thank you, my friends, for including me in your family.
Oh, and by the way, having only one seder is clutch. This whole concept of having two seders becomes passe very quickly. It is a very good reason to make aliyah.
And one more thing: My mother's recipe for Pesach rolls is the best. I don't care what the rest of you think about your mothers' Pesach rolls. My mother's rolls can beat your mother's rolls any time, you understand?