Spring was coming the long snowy cold winters were ending. Passover was coming along which meant a complete airing out and cleaning of our home. Getting rid of the chometz was a ritual we practiced it was one of our only connections to Judaism.
We always spent time with the family and one of my first memories of Passover finds me a happy two year old, sitting on a highchair eating a huge turkey drumstick while my grandfather read from his Haggadah a rare relic from our family passed down until the pages sadly fell apart. My family is sitting around a circular table set covered with Pesach delectables. We all listen to the brief explanation of the story of Passover joining in only to belt out the songs we loved. It was the one time a year we were all together.
“Papy, sing that song again,” I begged. “The one about the goat.”
Everyone at the table chuckled and in his loud booming voice my grandfather indulged me.
I danced around the table until my grandfather finished the song.
When we reached the end I was exhausted and whisked off to bed my doting parents.
The next few years until around age six we went to my grandparents until the Seder location was changed and it was held at my Uncle’s house in an upscale neighborhood. The food was catered and the Seder revolved around grown up talk. It was fun to see the family but the Seder was secondary to the socialization.
“How did your case work out,” my uncle the lawyer asked his partner who always joined us for this Seder.
While they talked shop, my aunts and mother spoke about the latest hair colors, best shopping deals. On they went in this manner for most of the night. Stopping only to read the “story” in the Haggadah and to “OOO” and “AHH” at the cute children asking the four questions.
We the children were sent to the playroom full of the latest gadgets, to play. We were only at the table briefly and knew to stay out of the grownup discussions.
These gatherings continued until I turned 10 and then we spent Passover at a hotel in the Catskills. It was a full week of yummy Pesach food and fun. The communal Seders were noisy and quick. The focus of the week was on relaxation and amusement.
The Passover Seders continued for many years in this vein sometimes at a hotel, sometimes at a relative’s home, until some of the relatives passed away or just drifted into their own worlds. We always had some kind of a Seder but not everyone came anymore.
When I was 19 my sister and parents became religious. The face of Passover began to change. Although I attended these new style Seders now held in my childhood home I found them long and tiring. I did respect their lifestyle changes but was unable to connect to it. The miracle of Passover just did not penetrate my soul.
It wasn’t until ten years later I found my own place in Yiddishkeit. For the first time I had an inkling of what Pesach was. I was looking forward to my family’s Seder and being able to discuss the Haggadah and to begin to try to understand the wonders of Yetzias Mitzrayim.
I had just learned about this with my rabbi and had many questions and ideas just waiting to be expressed. I happened to be working for a Shomer Shabbos company so I had off from the beginning of Adar until after Pesach. I decided to close up my apartment and spend the whole holiday at home. This would be my first time ever keeping all of Pesach and I was excited and scared.
I hope I can do this so many new things to do. I have to observe so several days of Yom Tov and have all these new halachos to keep. Yet, this is all so exciting I have found a connection to Torah and mitzvahs, a beautiful new world. I am so excited. I really am looking forward to this new experience.
Seder night came the beauty of the table and the Seder plate captured my heart. I felt myself opening up to a new world. From the get-go, kadesh, orchatz, etc. I felt riveted in the orbit of Mitzrayim. I could feel the pain of the slaves and the sorrow of my brothers. I clearly saw Hashem’s kindness in his saving the Jewish nation. This had all been a fairy tale to me until now. It was eye opening I had never connected with anything like this before.
Now thirty years later I look forward to a new experience each year. As my family grows and changes so do the dynamics of the Seder. Each one brings their own interpretations and customs. We blend into a sea of Yidden each one celebrating the freedom of Pesach.
Many years ago when I celebrated my first real Seder and Passover become Pesach I never dreamed how much more it would mean with each passing year.