Thursday, April 05, 2007

Memories of Pesachs Past

Pesach and the sedarim are one of those Jewish holidays that we remember best from our childhood. A gathering of family -- and often, friends -- a multitude of tasty dishes, laughter and conversation abound.

I'm sure that each and every one of you recall the Pesachs of your past as you sit at your current sedarim, whether they are held in your own home or in the home of another.

And even before we reach the point of sedarim, and we're scurrying around the house, preparing it for Pesach mode, we remember...

This year, as I prepped the house I recalled helping my parents shlep up the boxes from the basement and down from the top closed cabinets in the kitchen, opening up and looking through the supplies as if we expected to find surprises. I recall my mother kashering cutlery with hot water, pots and stones. I recall buying tins of macaroons and fruity sugar candies with my father. I recall polishing the silver candlesticks and kiddush cups till they shone and laying out the white linen tablecloths (no plastic coverings for my family!) and the eclectic collection of Haggadot.

I recall the sedarim themselves-- my family on their own, never accepting an invitation to spend the seder elsewhere. My father explained it as I got older: "I was a guest for so many years at someone else's home. Now I have my own home, my own family, and I want to enjoy them." I, the singer and the youngest, had a fun time with all the songs and showing off my "Ma Nishtanah" every year. By the time we'd reach "Chad Gadya" my brothers and I would be punch-drunk, due to the lateness of the hour, and we'd be silly, as we sang with a limbo/salsa beat. And each year we'd end with "May we all be together next year again to celebrate."

When you come into a marriage, you acquire new minhagim, traditions, or you meld new ones with existing ones...finding a happy medium. My husband gave in to serving potatoes this year, along with the celery, for dipping in salt water. I reluctantly gave in when he, the born Sephardi, decided that he wanted to have rice for the first time on Pesach...

Just the thought of doing so felt WRONG for me, the Ashkenazi through and through. We've been married over thirteen years, and for the last number of years, debated the issue of rice at our Pesach table. But our marriage is a bridge of our cultures, our rich traditions, and those we pass on to our children. And so, rice was FINALLY served at our seder!

I looked at my children around the table, at the interest they take in the seder, at their facility with reading Hebrew when called upon to read from the Haggadah. Even our son, in grade one, read beautifully. I don't know if other kids in his class read Hebrew as he did, or if he surpasses them at that too (his English reading level is that of a nine or ten year old, pu, pu, pu), but it was a pleasure to listen to him sound out the difficult words and smile at the end of his reading contributions.

My daughter is a little Pearl -- I saw my young self in her. "When is it going to be my turn to read?" she continually asked. She sang the loudest, and seems to take the greatest interest in what she reads and how she presented her d'var Torah.

I hope and pray that we will continue to make Pesach memories...for ourselves, for our children...and "May we all be together again next year to celebrate."


Danny said...

Oy, I was so happy to hear you talk about the potatoes, in fact, I screamed so loud my wife came running in the room. At the second night seder I went to this week every Jew at the table thought I was out of my mind when I said that my family always used potatoes for karpas. "But it's not a green vegetable," they all said, trying to convince me that it was my family alone who followed this bizarre ritual. Do you know the history of the potato at the seder? I always wondered if it was a regional custom from certain shtetls in Poland. Or maybe a Canadian thing? As you know, even though I grew up in Chicago, most of my family was from Toronto. Loved reading the rest of this post too. I have so many fond memories of my childhood seders.

torontopearl said...

Yay, my post earned itself a scream. :)
I'm first-generation Canadian, so it can't be a Canadian thing. My dad is Polish, my mom is Swiss-born with Polish parents, so it's an Eastern European thing, I'm guessing.
I dug this up while Googling the possible origins of the potato on the seder plate:
"Karpas (celery, root, radishes, onions, parsley, potatoes)
Karpas should be a vegetable not included in the family of bitter herbs, which requires a Borei Pri Ha'adoma, and is used as an appetizer. The above vegetables all conform to the prerequisites except for the potato. The potato was introduced in some countries where there were no other affordable vegetables. In the spirit of following in the footsteps of our fathers, many of us continue to use the potato, even though we can readily get any of the other vegetables."

orieyenta said...

What a lovely post.

Since the rest of my family is not Jewish, my little one and I are always guests at someone else's home. This year we went somewhere new on the second night and they had potatoes on their seder plate. LO was thrilled that she wasn't going to have to eat more parsley. Based on your above comments with Danny I think it may be an Eastern European thing...the family we were with was Hungarian and Russian.

As for your kids...I'm kvelling too.