In Neve Daniel, Erev Pesach was especially enjoyable for me this year. The boys no longer eat in their rooms, and they help to clean for Pesach. So I had a little time to walk around with my camera to see how other folks were preparing for the chag.
As there are no non-Jews on our yishuv, there is no need to perform the mitzvah of biur chometz with fire trucks and writs from the city government at one public gathering. So there are little fires all over, with holy families quietly focusing on the words in their machzorim, rather than on the curiosity or curses of complaining neighbors.
In every generation one is obligated to show how he himself came out of slavery in Egypt.
When our sons were little boys, telling the story of our exodus from Egypt consisted of Kool-Aid "blood," plastic frogs and wild animals and rubber bugs all over the Seder table, and the yearly appearance of "Guidetta." I got such cathartic pleasure out of dressing up in a snap-brim Fedora and sunglasses, "shooting" my kids with my over-sized Nerf machine gun. This was our substitute for barad, the miraculous hail made of fire and ice that rained down as G-d's sixth plague on the wicked Mitzri. The Death of the First Born was reenacted by each of our family members -- and some of our more extroverted guests -- as if the movie cameras were rolling. (I invariably won the unannounced contest with my heartfelt portrayal of Toshiro Mifune in one of his longer and better samurai death scenes.) I had a blast -- and so did the kids and the Dearly Beloved. Some guests claimed it changed their view of Yiddishkeit entirely -- and we can only pray that this was change for the good.
As the boys have grown and matured, the Seder necessarily has evolved with them.
Gone are the blood and the plastic menagerie. Gone the brilliantly-acted death scenes. Alas, gone the Fedora and the Tommy-gun. As we sit down for our one-and-only Seder this year in Israel, my sons say most of the Hagadah in beautiful Hebrew. As their parents still require a translation, each person at the table recites a passage in English. As my children are all 100% kosher Jewish hams, they recite each passage in heavily-accented English. We had Irish, Scottish, British, Russian, French, Jamaican, amorphous Southern USofA, and Baltimore black. We heard "The Four Questions" in Hebrew, Italian, Gaelic and Klingon. (Penina, we kept the copies your children brought to our table many years ago...)
We had FUN.
We also had moments of great and weighty seriousness.
Yeshiva Bochur helped me to prepare the maror this year according to an old family recipe acquired from a masochistic Mexican chef in Sierra Vista, Arizona.
The boys -- being men now -- decided to super-size their portions of white vinegar-laced horseradish -- and promptly ended up under the table, over the trash can, in the bathroom -- volubly ejecting their taste of slavery's bitterness. Afterward, with damp eyes and flushed faces, we talked of our recent losses of Golani soldiers, deputy battalion commander Maj. Eliraz Peretz, and St.-Sgt. Ilan Sviatkovsky. Eliraz had eulogized his brother who died in Lebanon twelve years ago. We thought of his wife and four children, and of his mother. Ilan was only twenty-one years old, nearing the end of his army duty, with all the plans and dreams of youth. We began to sing "Acheinu" with full hearts. I don't think my sons have ever connected to the reality of national loss in quite this way before.
We also had an unusual guest this year.
Like many Jews all over the world, we had an empty chair behind a Seder plate set for our precious missing soldiers and for Jonathan Pollard, in prison now for more than a quarter of a century.
We chose a very un-elegant chair -- as we wanted to imagine them sitting in the nicest chair any of them might actually have nearby at this moment.
Our sons really got the story of Pesach this year (which is good, as they are not so very many years from telling the tale to their very own precious children, bs"d). Yeshiva Bochur shared how he feels that this is a personal exodus for him, as he is spending his first year in Israel as a one-Seder citizen. And all of the boys shared that being in Israel adds to the significance of the Seder for them, and to the ongoing saga of our people toward the great Geula -- may Hashem hasten it, so that all of our people will taste freedom in our own Land, bimhera ve'ameinu.
Erev Pesach: the preparatory day before Passover
Yishuv: small community; settlement
Mitzvah: G-d-given commandment
Biur Chometz: the mitzvah of burning the leaven, to rid ourselves of any trace before the holiday begins
Machzorim: special books for each holiday, with rituals and prayers
Matzot: unleavened bread
Mitzri: Egyptians in the time of the Israelites' exodus from slavery
Maror: bitter herbs served at the Seder to remind us of slavery and great national sorrow -- usually horseradish or romaine
Acheinu: "Our Brothers" -- a prayer requesting that G-d ease the suffering of all Jews, no matter where they are in the world
BS"D: with the help of Heaven
Geula: the great Redemption, the End of Days, when there will be peace in the whole world
Bimheira v'ameinu: speedily and in our days