In every generation a person should see themselves as if they were personally redeemed from Egypt! (Haggadah)
My father, alav Hashalom (May he rest in peace!) conducted the family seder. Though not religious he did an decent job and repressed his annoyance when his wife, my mom aleha Hashalom (May she rest in peace!) would complain at his sly attempts to skip over various parts of the traditional Haggadah. One time as my father was complaining about wanting to get on with the meal the very next words he had to read were: “and the evil son says: When do we get to eat already?” thus hoisting himself by his own petard much to the amusement of all gathered. Whatever discomfiture dear dad experienced was certainly lessened by the slivovitz that he generously imbibed dulling both his senses and leadership skills. We were aware of the progression of the seder when the yarmulke he sported would slowly but surely make its way from the back of his head to the front of his brow, a precious comical image which remains in my heart and head.
The Passover seder is unique and the many iterations of the Haggadah speak to the wonder of its messages. To name but a few creative ones:
~The Feminist Haggadah (Shechinah – the feminine Devine presence is intoned)
~The Eco Haggadah (noting our task to liberate the environment from humanity’s excesses)
~The Adoption Haggadah (for adopted children who search in vain for their biological parents— Moses was adopted!)
~The Velveteen Rabbit Haggadah (with its different mixes of new age language and customs).
~The libertarian Haggadah (Let’s not leave out those to the pollical right of the spectrum).
~The DIY Haggadah (for the creatively minded “I want my own personal stamp!”)
~The ten-minute Haggadah (for those with ADD or simply for those who have what my father called shpilchus in tuchus, ants in your pants— though that is not the exact translation – call me
if you want an exact rendering ) And many, many more!
Which do you prefer? You may not know it but the traditional Haggadah (and there are many which are claimed to be the real one) does not include Moses, this to diminish any idea of a intermediary between you and God. It is a bit shocking. It is as if you took out all the scenes with Charlton Heston in Cecil B DeMille’s
The Ten Commandments.
Of late I have come to understand the greater importance of the seven-week counting of the Omer which concludes with the holiday of Shavuot (Remembering Sinai and the giving of the Torah along with the celebration of the first fruits of the land). In some ways, they constitute one big holiday of nearly two months in length, a time of meditation and inspiration. By way of analogy, it would be like observing Rosh Hashanah and forgetting about its conclusion Yom Kippur. In this case, it is celebrating freedom without considering the impact of Torah commitment, for freedom is not an absolute but entails responsibilities.
As your Seders are upon you, I hope the precious memories of those who helped laid the foundation of your lives will come to mind. I hope as well that you will create for yourselves and for those coming after you ever new memories to be cherished.
A sissen and a kosher Passover,
Rabbi Yossi Liebowitz D.D.