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July 30, 2014 | 3rd Av 5774

Another Seder

 

Galilee Diary #331, April 2, 2007  

                                                               

                                                     Marc J. Rosenstein          

 

We were four families, three of them former Americans who have served as extended family for each other on seder night for many years (a significant price of making aliyah, for many of us, is the separation from real family; when we first came to Shorashim, we were struck by the irony of the fact that the native-born Israelis resented the immigrants’ annual summer pilgrimage to the US – just as the immigrants resented the Israelis’ disappearance to their parents’ homes in Tel Aviv for Rosh Hashana and Pesach…).  And a new family to our seder – Russian/Iraqi in origin – prospective in-laws (the closest any of us have gotten so far).  Note, by the way, that the Diaspora tradition of two seders is a great boon to in-law relations; here, with only one seder, the negotiations over “whose seder we attend this year” can be very painful.  So: eight parents, three grandparents, and 11 twenty-somethings, of whom two are soldiers, six are students, and three are in-between.  The host had just returned from trekking in Nepal, with a sore throat.  He asked me to lead the seder – but I had just returned from the US, with sinusitis.  It was looking to be a difficult evening in a number of respects.  But then, one of the “kids” said he would be willing to lead the seder if no one else could. 

 

Lo and behold, it was a classic seder, from the introduction inviting people to interrupt with questions and comments, to the negotiations for the afikomon.  Nothing was skipped, everything for which anyone knew a melody was sung, four questions were led by the youngest, an IDF officer, and many more questions were asked along the way.  There was a discussion of the four children and the obligation to explain even to the one who does not ask.  Later, an attempt to discuss the tension between the excitement of the redemption and the tradition that God had foretold the whole process (Genesis 15:13-16) ran aground on a general unwillingness, by that point, to slow down the momentum toward the meal.  There were six different ethnic versions of charoset.  No orange on the seder plate, but a banana – a custom attributed to a rabbi who wanted to remind his students that the blessing for a banana is “borei pri ha’adama” (“who creates the fruit of the earth” - banana plants are not trees) – so bananas qualify for karpas (if you like bananas in salt water).   The seder was read in Hebrew, though since everyone had a different version of the Haggadah (a time-honored tradition at our seder), we occasionally stopped to compare translations, or to translate sections into English or Russian for the kvelling grandparents.  At midnight, after concluding the Haggadah, modern Israeli songsheets somehow appeared, and we were able to prolong the experience a little more.

 

I wondered whether the hysterical laughter that punctuated the singing of “Who knows one?” was a result of too much wine – or of the realization that we had made it for one more generation.  Not only did a member of the next generation pinch-hit, but his cohort had taken over the seder, and it was more than a joke at the end when we wondered how we could ever go back...

 

…And this very Haggadah whispers,

“Join us… you’re welcome here… you belong,

Among my pages full of smoke and blood,

Among the great and ancient tales I tell.”

 

So I know the sea was not split in vain,

Deserts not crossed in vain –

If at the end of the story stand Daddy and the Kid

Looking forward and knowing their turn will come.

            -from Nathan Alterman, “The Kid of the Haggadah,” translated by Arthur J. Waskow and         Judy Spelman, found on p. 85 of the CCAR Haggadah edited by Herbert Bronstein, 1975

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