Every year, I do something a little different with our family seder. Some years it’s preparing meaningful questions to discuss or new songs to sing. Other years, it’s toys and/or props. Always there’s a new recipe or two.
This year, one of the discussion cards asked the holder to share a most meaningful seder memory. I have so many incredible seder memories, it’s no wonder Passover is my favorite holiday! So, while not to diminish the beautiful memory shared at our seder table tonight, here are a few standouts of my own:
- We used to travel to New York every year to have seder with my father’s parents. I have wonderful memories of helping my grandmother cook, setting the table, chasing and being chased by my cousins, and the very rare coming together of my maternal and paternal grandparents – who, truth be told, did not particularly like each other. But my father’s parents were gracious enough to extend the invitation, and my mother’s parents were gracious enough to accept. For me, having our entire tiny family together once a year was priceless.
- My Bat Mitzvah was during Passover. At that time in Boston, there were wonderful caterers who kashered for Passover. It was a serious pain in the neck, but the food was all delicious (and it’s a GREAT Haftarah!). I have vivid memories of the silverware and glasses floating in the bathtub for days – meaning, of course, that we couldn’t shower – so they could be kashered. It was the only way my grandparents would come. That was the first year we had separate Passover dishes, purchased for this special occasion.
- My mother embodied the spirit of “Let all who are hungry, come and eat.” There was always room for one more at the table. Our friends were always welcome and embraced. Maury and I have tried to pass that lesson on to our own children, even as we continue to open our home to new and old friends and those with no place to go for seder.
- There was the year not long after my paternal grandfather had a stroke that affected his language ability. He could no longer speak English at all, and his Hungarian wasn’t so hot, either. My father was leading the seder. My grandfather grew increasingly agitated as my father butchered the Hebrew until he finally took the Haggadah out of my father’s hands and proceeded to chant the remainder of the seder liturgy – all in Hebrew, from memory.
- Finally, Passover during my sophomore year in college coincided with an unexpected blizzard. Expecting to head to New York as usual, we had nothing with which to make our seder, but there was no way we were getting out of town. So we pulled together what we could and did our best. That night, we stayed up into the wee hours as my father shared stories of his family coming to the U.S. from Hungary, his parents’ struggle to find their place in their new home, and his relationship with his sister. It was the first time I’d ever heard the stories, and I learned that night how powerful the stories of our parents and grandparents could be.
Wishing all who celebrate a zissen Pesach – a sweet, liberating Festival of Freedom!