Posted on | April 7, 2009 | By Guest Contributor | 15 Comments
By Rabbi Mordechai Scher
My wife’s best friend’s family has had us for Pesah for years now. That itself may qualify by now as a ‘tradition’. First Queens, then Beit Shemesh, for now Syosset.
There are a few customs, learned as a young man in Israel, that I do at the seder each year. There is a real advantage to living in ‘kibbutz galuyot’ – the ingathering of the exiles. As a young American Ashkenazi kid, I never would have experienced Pesah customs the same way had I stayed in America.
The first thing we do, Erev Pesah, is go out and find good walking sticks. We prepare walking sticks, and backpacks with provisions (matzah) for the journey that night for all the kids and me. The adults are usually too stodgy to participate in our ‘exodus’ at the beginning of the seder. I’ve been forewarned that Syosset may not offer much in the way of suitable dead branches; and we won’t bring hiking poles (Leki and others) as we did when driving to Queens from Massachussetts. So, this Erev Pesah may require a quick trip to the hardware store for some cheap broomsticks.
Before the seder actually starts, the children and I will go out the front door. One of the children knocks loudly on the door, and a short dialogue ensues from each side. Imma: Mi sham? Who’s there? Children: Bnei Yisrael. The People of Israel! Imma: M’ayin atem? From where do you come? Children: M’mitzrayim! From Egypt! Imma: U’l’an atem? And where are you going? Children: L’eretz Yisrael! To the Land of Israel! Then with a great cry of greeting the door opens and in we go with our packs and walking sticks.
The other custom varies in timing. Until now, the children were all quite small, so we did this right after coming in the front door. We would rush around the house, proclaiming ‘ b’vehilu v’rehimu yatzanu m’mitzrayim, with haste and mercy we left Egypt.’ Now that the children are a bit older, some of them, we may do this just before Dayenu or Hallel. I’ll have to find out if the parents are willing to have that interruption at that point.
Another manner of the seder my friend Dov Lapin (a fine talmid hacham and friend; does anyone by some chance know him and where he is?) related to me after coming back from the Gush one year. As I recall, Menuha Schwat took her little child’s toy animals and enacted an ‘exodus’ across the living room floor to engage the little child in a suitable manner. This has stuck with me for decades. My wife has brought ‘Pesah kits’ in the past, and thrown out frogs at the appropriate time, etc.
For the adults, some fairly standard but important fare. Our friends are sincere Jews who appreciate Torah, so we try to contribute to the divrei Torah and explanations of the seder. Seems straightforward, but everyone gets what suits them.
So, what do you do for yourselves or other participants at the seder?