“Why is this night different from all other nights?”
This is one of the questions asked at the passover Seder – the special meal shared by Jews to celebrate the escape from slavery in Egypt so many years ago. Every year the family comes together to
annoy each other to move through the Seder ceremony with the aim of being fed generously usually by the head matriarch of the family – my mum – and minus any breaded goods. I’m guessing that many seders are quite serious affairs in which the participants sit patiently at the table and listen quietly, perhaps even studiously, as the chosen leader, usually the patriarch – my dad – reads through the Seder ceremony. Our Seder is rather a cacophony of various noises. Firstly my Dad doing what he is supposed to be, then the various grandchildren chatting not quite discretely enough, the voices of their mothers telling them to shush, and my mum telling her own children to schtum. This is together with the the voices, coughs, sneezes of the guests – this year was 22 people in total. Add in various people from around the table correcting the leader or commenting- “no now its the washing hands”, “Oh were we not supposed to drink that cup of wine yet? “I’m not eating that”, “Don’t lick your finger!” Now there is also Big O to remind Papa he’s forgotten a crucial part, and there is Little A to come in with her “Ooooooooh wooowww wossat” every 5 seconds.
But I wouldn’t have it any other way and if you are lucky enough to have young children participate it is all the more special. This is the first year Big O has known what is going on (sort of). After telling me she would be too shy, she without hesitation accepted Papa’s invitation to stand on his chair and since the Ma Nishtana (traditionally sung by the youngest) in front of everyone solo and then all joined in. My other favourite moment was when Papa asked for the front door to be opened for the Angel Elijah. This was always my favourite bit as a child. I’d always open it then run as fast as I could back to the table. O was too nervous to open it herself but when the door was closed and Papa declared that a miracle had occurred and the glass of wine he’d poured had been drunk (no need to wonder where that really went) – she was amazed. “I didn’t know he was invisible!” her eyes had welled up and she was wrapped up in the magic of it just as I was.
Find the afikoman (hidden matzo) was always forgotten and inserted towards the end of the evening. To a chorus of conflicting ‘Hot, hot, cold, freezing, warm hot, no warm, no cold now’ it’s a wonder a child ever finds the treasure but when they do they get a prize. Of course Papa did not secretly tell O where some pieces may be hidden or make it incredibly obvious, and of course I’m not upset that grown ups aren’t allowed to take part and get a prize also.
Little A made me proud also. From start to finish she never grumbled – she grazed continuously on whatever food was going (though she drew the line at chopped liver pate) and made the most of any attention she received.
So Why is this night different from all other nights?
My personal answer is that there is family, food, laughter, enchantment, memories of past Seders and participants, food…other parents to share the parental duties – all in one evening.
And now I am F&$%ing exhausted (no difference there then).