I am always nervous ahead of our family Seder.
I do some preparation ahead of time, including copying pages of the text (in English and Hebrew) with a theme in mind. This year’s theme was: how is our ancient story relevant to Arab Spring? Dad came up with that. Pretty awesome for a near-91 year-old.
Even though I plan it out and “run it”, I lose control of the Seder almost immediately. Our family’s idea of exercise is a rigorous argument, and it always starts with, “We are told . . . ” and every response starts with a silent “oh, yeah?”.
Almost immediately in the readings (think, “we are told”) G-d says he will stiffen Pharaoh’s heart again and again. (Listen for the “oh, yeah”s.) Ok, let the exercise begin: Don’t Jews believe in free will? If Pharaoh doesn’t have free will, then do any of us? Or does G-d sometimes intercede and constrain free will? And isn’t the concept illusory because how we act in any situation is dictated by our past and learned responses? And can we cast off that prior learning and should we?
I’m telling you, our brains hurt even if our guts were growing from the fantastic meal made by POB (partner of blogger).
(The brisket was delicious. Of course, my Dad couldn’t help criticizing my less-than-uniform carving. But his critique is a necessary part of our family tradition. If he didn’t, I would rush him to the hospital.)
On the Seder table is a Seder plate. The Seder plate contains the symbols of the holiday for all Jews — egg (rebirth and renewal), parsley (springtime), charoset (chopped up apple concoction for the bricks and mortar but sweet because of deliverance), bitter herbs (for the bitterness of slavery), salt water (for the tears of slavery) and the shankbone (representing the blood that was spread over the doorposts of the Israelites so the Angel of death would pass over).
For us, I would add a few more symbols of our family’s festive rejoicing:
זול יין — a bottle of the cheap wine my Dad brings because he can no longer taste the difference (for the record, I wouldn’t even cook with it);
משה בובה–our Moses action figure, complete with staff and detachable Ten Commandments (for the obligatory smashing episode);
שעון עצר — a stop watch because SOB (sister of blogger) gives me exactly one hour and then she shuts down the service, in favor of eating; and
הגדה — the second part of the Haggadah to remind us that we don’t persecute our family by making everyone continue the service after the meal.
Happy holidays to all.