Seders and other riotous entertainment

I went to a seder on Wednesday with my new family—the family my daughter married into—and found it…unlike other seders I’d been to.

Sing to the tune of “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”:

Just a tad of haroset helps the bitter herbs go down,
The bitter herbs go down, the bitter herbs go down,
Just a tad of haroset helps the bitter herbs go down,
In the most disguising way.

(Note: That last line is “disguising,” not “disgusting.”)

We didn’t attempt the tune for “Matzo, Matzo Man” (These are Sephardi Jews, not Ashkenazi, and I believe geneticists have determined that Sephardi people lack the gene for Broadway Musicals. Tunes Wednesday night were kept by the lapsed Catholics and Episcopalians in the gathering.) however, “These are a few of my favorite things” adopted well to the words:

Cleaning and cooking and so many dishes—
Out with the hametz, no pasta, no knishes
Fish that’s gefillted
Horseradish that stings,
These are a few of our Passover things.

When the plagues strike,
When the lice bite
When we’re feeling sad
We simply remember our Passover things
And then we don’t feel so bad.

Matzo and karpas and chopped-up haroset,
Shankbones and Kiddish and Yiddish neuroses,
Tante who kvetches and uncle who sings,
These are a few of our Passover things.

I won’t go on (Is that a roar of approval I hear?) with “Take me out to the seder, take me out to the crowd…And it’s root, root, root for Elijah…” or the Eight Nights of Passover, but you get the picture.

A high point were the plague bags (containing small stretchy frogs, wind-up locusts, and small Styrofoam balls for boils, such, all of which were brought out and often tossed about at their respective mentions in the reading. The plague of darkness? Sunglasses, of course. Can you guess there were a lot of kids here?)

But there was one thing I truly loved. While the head of the family was carrying the platter of matzo around and brushing each person with it, accompanied by a nice catchy if somewhat repetitive tune, I looked up and found half the people there on the phone. The middle of a religious service, and they were checking their voice mail? But no. They were ringing absent friends and family members, that they might participate in the service. An aunt in LA, a mother in the hospital, all were linked through these little scraps of electronic technology to a group of Jews-and-others, gathered in Fremont to celebrate a miraculous event 4000 years old.

Comments

  1. Pat Floyd says:

    How absolutely wonderful. I recall a very blessed Seder with rich sharing among adults and children of griefs, joys, and insights. The crowning moment was when the youngest child of the house opened the door for Elijah and in walked the handsome black and white cat.

  2. Passover, rocky horror style…I like it! 😉

  3. strawberry curls says:

    “They were ringing absent friends and family members, that they might participate in the service. An aunt in LA, a mother in the hospital, all were linked through these little scraps of electronic technology to a group of Jews-and-others, gathered in Fremont to celebrate a miraculous event 4000 years old.”

    This really touched me. What a marvelous experience, and what a marvelous family. L’Chaim.

    –Alice

  4. I love the idea of including family through technology.

    I’m going to have to tell my sister about the plague bags – we’re Episcopalians, but she is this autumn marrying a Jewish man, and they plan to raise their children in both faiths. I plan to come and visit for Easter/Passover and the occasional Purim.

  5. Funny and you surprised me with your touching ending! Thank you. I am going to my first Seder tomorrow evening and know almost nothing about it. My friend emailed me that I am to ask 4 questions. Hope I don’t end up crying… It’s my Jewish day tomorrow. Also taking lunch to an elder friend who was in the nazi camps as a young man.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Proof positive that celebrating ancient religious traditions need not be archaic. Thanks for this. L’Chaim!

  7. Susan in Las Vegas says:

    I’ve mentioned this post to several people (only a couple of them Jewish), and the universal response has been absolute delight and “I want to go there too!”.

    Do they by any chance have a song book or lyrics printed somewhere so we could re-create this joy in other places?

  8. Susan in NC says:

    I love your seder songs. Sounds like some we would sing. We made up breastfeeding songs, one to the tune of Roll out the Barrel, but perhaps I should not go into that here.

    We had to delay our Seder for several reasons, but had my Methodist parents join us for the first time, and it was my Mother’s birthday. It was wonderful, but similar to your own. The kids lost the bag of plagues just before dinner. also just before dinner we discovered the stray cat I had been hearing at night was not outside but in our basement for about a week. My daughter named him Pesach. (Our son’s name is Elijah). My daughter is in the fourth grade, and was reading the Hebrew blessings. She is now going home with a friend on day a week to teach her Hebrew while the friend teaches her piano.

    Living in the south, there is a very small community here. Fortunately it’s a great one. For Purim, we had the “Star of David Wars” complete with Yoda and Darth Haman.

    Shabbat Shalom

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