Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Family Seder (5768)

Last night was our family Seder for the year 5768 on the Hebrew calendar. Last year I wrote about the Annual Family Seder and the tradition in Donna's family. This year there were 20 people at the long extended table set in our dining/living room area. Donna was a bit depressed about the number; it was significantly lower than we are accustomed to. The 2007 Seder was small at 27 people and this year was, well, it was just not enough people and not quite as diverse as previous years. Our Seders tend to be very ecumenical but there were too many conflicts this year that precluded many of the "regulars" from joining us as we retold the story of the Jews exodus from Egypt.

Several hours before the guests arrived, and before it was fully set, I did take a picture of the table to preserve a memory of its expanse:

But it was special just the same. We knew that it might be the last Seder that daughter Alicia would be with us for a few years; she just accepted a job with Hillel at the University of Deleware and will be moving to Wilmington in June. She brought with her a friend, Jason, a "Jew by choice" who was attending his first Seder and willingly agreed to read the four questions in Hebrew. He did a wonderful job and brought heartfelt smiles to all our faces.

Son Seth was on vacation in the Washington, D.C. and we thought he was with my nephew and niece (Danny and Kate Cohen) at their family Seder in Rockville, MD. Then, just as we were sitting down to start the service, the doorbell rang and in Seth walked with a big grin on his face. He returned to the west coast early and decided to surprise us. He succeeded! Donna was in joyful tears because both of her children were seated at her side and the Seder could truly begin.

There was still another special aspect to the gathering. Donna's parents, Resa and Sy Brenner, were able to join us for the first time in several years. Cousin Lisa Rycus drove them up from San Diego and just their presence brought back the wonderful memories of the Seders they hosted for so many years in their own home. Before we began reading from the family Hagadah, I asked Sy if he would offer us some observations about freedom, the underlying theme of Passover. As I suspected would happen, he talked about being a POW during WWII and the emotions that overtook him when he was liberated by the allies following the war. He is a man who truly appreciates how precious freedom is and who has willingly passed this message on to younger generations starting with his grandchildren and carrying into many classrooms where he has been invited to speak over the years.

So, once again, we experienced a wonderful Seder in our home with many friends and family members around us. Tonight will join our neighbors, the Barryte's, for the 2nd Seder at their home. It too will offer that sense of fellowship and belonging that is so important for all of us. Passover is one of those holidays where it is critically important to be with other people to recall the Exodus. No one should have to be alone on this occasion!

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