Depending on the Postal Service, and on how quickly you typically rush to read the TBS Bulletin, you probably are reading this just before or just after (or perhaps even during) a Passover Seder. [If you look at our website regularly, you can enjoy it earlier. Ed.]
I like Passover. I could do without some of the preparation, but I truly do enjoy the holiday. I even look forward to some of the food. My favorite part of the holiday, though, is the seders. Unlike any other holiday – Jewish or secular – some of my strongest and fondest memories come from seders I have attended.
Every family has unique family traditions. Growing up, my grandfather on my mother’s side ran our two seders. They were big, multi-generational affairs, and he maintained a pretty serious demeanor through most of the evening, letting his guard down only a bit when it came time for him to buy back the Afikomen.
In later years, my father starting leading our seder. He maintained many of the traditions of my grandfather, but, as an educator, relished infusing current events and other new ideas into the seder, while still attempting to keep things appropriately serious. This worked for several years, until we all realized that at every seder, at some point during the evening, my siblings and I would break out into uncontrollable laughter, often to the great embarrassment of our spouses. Typically, this occurred at one of two times during the seder – either when one of us read an English passage containing unintentionally funny words, or when my brother, well into his 20’s at the time, launched into his faux baritone recitation of The Four Questions.
Eventually, my parents accepted these outbursts of hysteria as a part of our family tradition. When the next generation came along, Marni and my sister sought to make the seders more kid friendly, bringing “bags of plagues” to entertain the little ones, sunglasses to combat the plague of darkness, and dozens of frogs to adorn the table.
The past few years, we have hosted our own seder. While incorporating some family traditions that Marni and I grew up with, we have tried to create some of our own, too. For example, we’ve taken to allowing Zachary and the other kids present to break into whatever Passover songs they have learned, whenever the mood strikes and they muster up the courage. This makes for a somewhat unpredictable evening, but certainly one that is filled with joy and laughter.
I suppose that for some families, the seder remains a somber affair, lightened up only by the singing of Adir Hu and Echad Mi Yodayah at the end of the evening, but I suspect that the hijinks and fun of the type that I have described are more common than not. There’s even a comedy that was released last year, When Do We Eat?, chronicling a fun-filled family seder!
So, tell the story, eat some charoset, drip some wine on the table, find the middle matzah, open the door for Elijah, and say “Next year in Jerusalem.” But most of all, have a Chag Sameach – a Happy Holiday.
P.S. If you REALLY want to laugh out loud, plan to attend Temple Beth Sholom’s Stand Up Comedy Night, on May 12th, featuring 3 of New York City’s top comedians.