This post first appeared on A Simple Jew’s site
Pesach definitely is special to me. It has always been kind of a “self-made Yuntif” for me. From the very earliest time that I was becoming religious, I was always in charge of kashering my parents house and leading the sedorim, and I did not have the opportunity to go to other frum families for Pesach.
One funny story very early in the process for me (before I was shomer Shabbos or really shomer much of anything), in a fit of newbie Baal Teshuva zealotry, I decided a few hours before Pesach came in, in the afternoon of Erev Pesach (after the Isur of Chometz has already taken effect) that I would clean out my parents house as best I could. As part of this effort, I started to go through my parents’ pantry to get rid of any obvious chametz. The problem was that I really had no idea what chametz actually was. So for help, I called up one of the Shomer Shabbos ladies in the neighborhood, and asked some very important Pesach sheilos, like “Is oatmeal considered Chametz?” and “Does everything have to have a Kosher L’Pesach kosher supervision symbol on it?!” Poor lady and my poor parents!
While I went to halacha shiurim before Pesach and learned the halachos in in many books like the annual Bloomenkrantz guide (yes, there’s a 2008 edition) and Rav Eider’s sefer on hilchos Pesach, I never actually got to observe any mainstream frum families observing Pesach and the sedorim. As things stabalized and my parents happily let me kasher their house for Pesach, I used various haggadahs to help create a theme for each year’s seder like Rav Avraham Dov Kahn’s The Chosen Nation Haggadah, or Rav Yaakov Moshe Charlap’s Mei Marom Hagaddah (He was the Talmid Muvhak of Rav Kook).
However, since I never had a real example of a frum seder to base myself on, there was always a certain amount of “winging it.” One example of this is the minhag of wearing a kittel at the seder. Since I never saw anyone doing this since I really never saw anyone other than myself leading a seder, it didn’t occur to me that I should be doing this. I had read that some have this minhag, but I just assumed that this did not apply to me. However, after hearing a couple of friends mention that they were wearing a kittel at the seder, I decided to ask my rebbe if I should be doing that. His response was “Of course!” (Remember, he was speaking to me, and this does not mean that this guidance would necessarily apply to everyone.) I didn’t know it was so obvious, but it brought home the more general point that as a BT/Ger, I lack elements of the mesorah, the “תורת אמיך.”
But I think that, as I heard from my rebbe in YU, Rav Aharon Kahn, Hashem would never leave those who lack a real mesorah, through no fault of their own, completely without all benefits of that mesorah. Therefore, he said that it is his belief that whatever level of benefit “FFBs” get from growing up with the mesorah of frumkeit from an early age, will somehow be given by Siyata Dishmaya, Divine help, to the BT or Ger.
This principal is especially relevant to Pesach, with its theme of transmitting our mesorah to our children. The biggest mitzvah of the seder night, specifically, is “V’higadeta l’vincha,” telling over Yetziyas Mitzrayim to your children. It is a difficult challenge to pass on the mesorah of our emunah to our children, especially for people who didn’t grow up with that emunah. But with Hashem’s help and some preperation ahead of time, we will be zocheh to bring down down our mesorah into our and our children’s lives!