Loving the Seder With a Little Help From Our Friends
Hiney mah tov umah na’im shevet achim gam yachad
Behold how wonderful it is when we gather together like a tribe of brothers and sisters in unity.Tehilim (Psalms), 133:1
Hillel omar: Hevay mitalmidav shel Aharon, ohave shalom v’rodef shalom,ohave et habriyot um’karvan laTorah / Hillel says: One should emulate Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving people and drawing them close to the Torah. Pirkey Avot 1:12
What would you think if I sang out of tune
Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song
And I’ll try not to sing out of key
Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends
Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends
“With a Little Help From My Friends,”
John Lennon and Paul McCartney
Each day just goes so fast
I turn around, it’s past
You don’t get time to hang a sign on me
Love me while you can
Before I’m a dead old man
“Love You To,”
It’s just about that time. The time for Jewish spring cleaning and dedicated matzah munching: it’s close to Pesach already. Pesach for most of us is synonymous with “the Seder,” an event encountered by many if not most Jews with a mixture of love, hate, obligation, happiness, apprehension, boredom, and for some, excitement and anticipation.
Just think about the Sedarim that you have experienced. Recall the gathering at a crowded family table. Can you hear the signature cacophony of Jews yammering together as they await the start of the yearly event? If you took part in a traditional Seder, you can listen in your personal memories to the buzz, hum, and droning of your Yiddish-accented father or Zaidy mumbling along in partially comprehensible Hebrew broken up by bits of familiar song and stilted and uninspired English readings from the old Maxwell House Haggadah. For most of us this rough but comfortable occasion was not one we would rank as great entertainment or inspiration, but still we held its intimacy close to our hearts as the stage and opening act for the stars of the evening: nostril-blasting chrain and each home’s personal take on sweet, sticky, and sometimes crunchy charoses followed by homemade gefilte fish, knaidlach, chicken soup, matzo farfel, brisket, and kugel, all served with love, argument, noise, pride, and more love.
Time has passed and times have changed. Fewer of us experience such a Seder. Fewer people have an accented patriarch to lend a note of sweet authenticity to the occasion. Fewer know how or are willing or even have the time to prepare the delicacies. Fewer families gather together and many are spread across the country these days.
The Seder is meant to be a focal point for gathering together to fill one with a sense of attachment to being a Jew and a feeling of love for fellow Jews and ultimately to really be so filled with a feeling of attachment and love that you can really love all of creation. But without the same traditional foundation of the intensive family Seder available today, what are we to do?
We can get by with a little help from our friends. One benefit of being part of a small and intimate congregation is that we come to really appreciate each other. We appreciate and come to understand that we are all here on borrowed time and we have to make the best of that time and celebrate it, and we can do that lovingly within our congregational family. This past Purim our “Super Feast and Festival” musical Purim seudah was a great example of that coming together to enjoy our lives as Jews, as a congregational family. Not only did I have a blast doing my shtick on Purim but I got even greater pleasure from witnessing how much fun everyone was having together.
I want to offer special thanks and a “big up” to JoAnn, Mike, and Melody Jacobs, Eddie Friedman, Paul Steinberg, and Cantor Shmuelly for joining me on the stage and sharing their exquisite talents to concoct some delicious, lively, and frailach musical enjoyment and Mathew Friedman for his side-splitting Borsht Belt comedy stylings. Todah rabah to Judy Leight and Rivka for organizing the seudah and making sure we all got to enjoy copious quantities of tasty vittles on Purim. I would also like to thank our Hebrew School children for presenting their cute skit during our morning Megillah reading and David and Michele Slotnick for their fine efforts in putting on our annual Purim carnival.
Pesach and our congregational Sedarim give us more opportunities to enjoy and celebrate with a little help from our friends. Rivka and I aren’t Bubby and Zaidy, but we’ll be there in our pseudo-Biblical Seder costumes to do our best to make another simcha-filled Seder experience (actually two) that I hope will even top the great fun we’ve had at the Sedarim the past few years. I’ll be ready with guitar, drums, masks, rubber frogs, and perhaps some new shtick. No, this isn’t your Zaidy’s Seder but it’s one for our time that will fill us with a sense of joy in being Jewish appropriate for today.
Whether you are joining us or celebrating your Seder elsewhere, I wish you a joyous experience of yetziat Mitzryrim / breaking out of Egypt and all artificial boundaries in order to attain much, much happiness, success and personal fulfillment. And p.s., please be kind and get your Seder reservations to Rivka ASAP!
A Chag Kosher V’Samayach, B’Shalom,