Monday, April 17, 2006

Nu? What time did you finish?

First night: After 1 AM.

Second night: Closer to 2 AM.

The mystery to me, as always, is how so many of my friends managed to finish before midnight. Do they wolf down their food? Or, (and this is more likely) do they make a mockery of magid? A proper magid is more than just a series of readings. It should not be said the way we say psuka dezimra. A proper magid is interspersed with conversation and discussion. The kids ask questions and so do the adults. The kids, armed with their notebooks and annotated haggadahs, share thoughts about Pesach, and so do the adults. At our seder, we've occasionally had guests from Lakewood or Chaim Berlin who came with prepared remarks. One cousin even came to the table with a pile of books and notes for a twenty-minute oration. That's going too far. Snippets, not sermons. But put no limits on the snippets. A seder is primarily a teaching tool. Eveyone present should be prepared to learn and to teach, to share something brief but brilliant, and to listen patiently when it's the other fellows turn. So long as this rule is followed, the more snippets the better. This chatter is part of the charm of the seder. I couldn't imagine doing without it.

This year, more than any other, for some reason, I found myself wondering about other seders and how they are conducted. Every seder I've ever attended has had one of two people presiding: my father, or my father-in-law. I still remember the curious sense of surprise, the year after I was married, when, for the first time, I saw different seder customs and heard different nirtzhah tunes. Some questions:

Do all of you lift the whole plate at ha lachma anya the way that we do, or do you lift the matzha alone? Do you make a fetish out of forbidding anyone to pour their own cup of wine, or are you lax on this point? Egg after korach or not? Do you stand when the door is opened for Eliyahu? Do you let the children lean? Do you sing halel? Do you stick to the text of the haggadah, or do you add family songs and family readings? What's unique about your seder?

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