By Rob Goldberg
Celebrating Passover with family this week is both overwhelming and a pure joy. We have cleaned, cooked and readied our home for our adult children and grandchildren, some of whom have travelled long distances to join our Buffalo family for two festive and kid-friendly seders (beginning tonight!).
Like many, we have unique and cherished family traditions for Passover and every year we like to add new ones.
Among the customs we now have embedded into our family tradition include spilling a bit of grape juice on the table before we begin the seder to put all at ease (particularly the parents). The message: life is messy, it’s okay to spill, so just relax and don’t sweat the small stuff!
We also distribute bags of candy to the kids at the point in the seder after we break the middle matzah and begin to tell our freedom story. This is a custom attributed to Rabbi Akiva that I read about when our kids were little. The Rabbi would distribute sweetened corn to the children at this time of the seder anticipating that they would have grown restless (spot on Reb Akiva). So, we have individual bags of Kosher for Passover treats for the kids to enjoy. The message: Passover is so awesome that you are allowed to eat candy before you dine on hard boiled eggs, gefilte fish and brisket!
And of course, our seders wouldn’t be complete without silly songs (we actually have our own silly songbook) and the opportunity to whack each other with scallions when singing the refrain of Dayeinu (an Afghani custom that we’ve been doing for years). The message: Remember that when our ancestors left Egypt there were some who wanted to go back because at least in Egypt there were leeks, onions and fish to eat (vs. manna). So, we admonish each other (by whacking) when we sing dayeinu to remind us that nothing is worse than being enslaved (no matter what food was available to eat).
Four years ago, with thanks to Cantor Irwin Gelman who introduced me to the book 300 Ways to ask the Four Questions by Murray Siegel and Rickey Stein, we began singing versions of the Four Questions in multiple languages. This year we plan to sing them in Ukrainian, Latin (because our middle daughter studied Latin in High School and of course we should appropriately put her on the spot) and Klingon (just because)! The message: While the world may be diverse and everyone has their own way of communicating, all should have the opportunity to question, the ultimate freedom.
And this year, we are adding two new traditions pivoting around the Four Sons in the Haggadah. We will also be telling of the four daughters who sit around our table – the wise daughter who speaks up, claiming a place for herself even if men do not make room for her; the wicked or rebellious daughter who challenges the status quo; the simple daughter whose eyes are yet to be opened; and the daughter who does not know how to ask, who has not yet found her voice.
And we will also introduce the fifth child – the one who isn’t at any seder table – reminding us that our purpose as passionate and proud Jews is to seek to engage everyone in our community so that each individual feels included and welcome.
However, you celebrate the beginning of Passover this week, we hope that it is meaningful, liberating and replete with your own unique family traditions!
Hag Kasher v’Sameah!
Rob Goldberg is CEO of Buffalo Jewish Federation and has been leading seders with joy and silliness since 1984.