On the table, under a hand embroidered silk cloth, lay the matzot. On the insistence of the two sons learning in the recently opened Yeshiva Taharas Ha’Torah in Las Vegas (in order to bring the voice of Torah even to the entrance of Gehennom) the matzot are from the first 18 minute batch, guaranteeing that no naughty piece of dough would be hiding in any of the rollers. The hand matzot were personally chosen by the Rebbe of the shteible where the family davens after leaving the central shul which was costing too much. The rebbe assured the boys that the matzot were bubble-free, with no overturned edges.
The wall-to-wall carpet is as deep as grows the grass in the beautiful garden. Above the table hangs the family’s pride and joy — a many faceted crystal chandelier, personally chosen by Rayza on the family’s last visit to Prague.
Reb Sender is wearing his new bekeshe, the one with the swirls of blue, with a gold-buckled gartel. Rayza has just said the shehechiyanu blessing over the $3000 dress imported from Paris. The boys are handsome in their wide brimmed black hats and the two girls will make beautiful kallahs when the time comes, dressed in their very expensive dresses.
The seder goes Beitter than expected. Words of Torah, beginning with an invitation to the hungry to join with them in the meal, despite the fact that there is not a needy person within 50 miles. A lively discussion develops on the characters of the “four sons.” The afikomen is “stolen” by the youngest daughter who, for its return, has succeeded in extorting from abba a vacation in Hawaii.
Songs of thanks to Hashem for freeing the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt are recited. For it is a mitzva on this night for each person to consider himself as if he and she where slaves in Mitzrayim.
Birkat hamazon is said, as is the second part of Hallel. Chad Gadya puts the final touch on the mitzvot of the night. Now, just as Hashem destroys the “Angel of Death” in the song, father jumps up — and gathering the family in a circle they all break out in a frenzy of song — L’shana ha’ba’a Be’Yerushalayim — “next year in Jerusalem.” Again and again around the table L’shana ha’ba’a Be’Yerushalayim is sounded. Louder and louder until their song merges with the same melody resounding from the neighbors’ homes, cutting a path into the highest realms of heaven.
Suddenly Mama collapses into a chair crying hysterically. The singing stops. Father runs over and asks why is she crying just now at the apex of the beautiful sacred night?
“What do you mean next year in Yerushalayim? What about the table, the chandelier, the deep carpet, the Rosenthal China! How can we leave all this?”
Father approaches Mama. And taking her hand while gently dabbing her tears away, in a voice full of compassion says to his beloved wife, “Darling, don’t cry, IT’S ONLY A SONG!”
Ten thousand kilometers to the east, in Eretz Yisrael, lives Reb Sender’s brother Kalman. Kalman had moved to Eretz Yisrael many years ago, and was blessed with a beautiful family and an adequate apartment. His son, Yossi, will not be home for the Seder night since he is doing his army service within the Hesder yeshiva system.
But the parents are not overly worried, because Yossi himself told them that he is in a safe place in the north, and that next year they will all be together for the seder.
At 12 noon, on the 14th of Nisan, erev Pessach, Yossi and three other soldiers from the same yeshiva were called to the company commander’s room, where he informed them that they have been chosen to fill an assignment that evening, on the Seder night. They were to cross the border into Hizballah territory in Southern Lebanon and man the out-post bunker on hill 432.
Yossi knew the hill well; he had been there several times in the past year. It was sarcastically called a “bunker,” but in reality it was nothing more than a fox hole large enough for four soldiers. Their assignment was to track terrorist movements and destroy them on contact. It was tolerable except when it rained, which caused the bottom of the hole to be soggy and muddy. But today the four hoped that it would rain, even though chances were small since it was late in the season. On the 14th of every Hebrew month the moon is full, which presents a greater danger when crossing into enemy territory; so rain would be a mixed blessing.
At 5 PM, they were given the necessary arms and ammunition. In addition, the army rabbinate had provided them with 4 plastic containers each holding 3 matzot and all the ingredients necessary for a seder, as well as 4 plastic bottles of wine, sufficient for 4 cups, and of course a Haggada.