Every year as Pesach draws near, we begin to plan. We clean the whole house, think about meals and try not to panic. The idea that we can’t eat bread or any type of chametz, need to change our kitchens over to Pesach dishes, and host over 20 family members and friends, can lead to stress competing with any enthusiasm.
More importantly don’t forget that if the task of making the Seder Night is your responsibility, you have to carefully balance the rules of hosting a Seder. That means making sure that it is interesting, educational, fun, and of course let’s not underestimate the importance of the food. After all, if we aren’t fasting, we must be feasting, and all this without the ability to use our regular ingredients!
Nowadays, intertwined with the traditional tunes and our wine stained Haggadot, we also have to spend quite a lot of time in planning the entertainment. Jumping frog toys along with fake blood and plastic bugs for the plagues. The last few years has seen the now popular “Exodus from Egypt” displayed through the middle of the table thanks to a sea of blue tablecloths and some suitable lego figures.
Watching my Facebook feed I can see many families are already starting to prepare. I know that getting ready for Pesach depends on your traditions, and even something so mundane as where you live. Living in Israel it’s easier in many ways to do the big Pesach shop because you don’t even need to do it all in one go. Most manufacturers actually change their production lines and many brands are readily available with a kosher for Pesach stamp. Shops won’t necessarily run out of things for you to eat if you don’t buy your whole weeks Pesach food in one go.
But whilst you start planning your meals and preparing the entertainment, please don’t forget your guests. Not the close family friends who come every year just because you always celebrate together. I mean the other guests. I’m talking about the people who for whatever reason don’t have a natural place to be on Seder Night.
As a child of divorced parents, my family fell in with the waifs and strays who were invited to other peoples homes for Seder Night. I have to say that I have extremely fond memories of these families. Some of them then invited us for Seder every year, thus allowing my brother and I the feeling of continuity and belonging.
I grew up with these big Seders and to this day that is what feels like home to me. A long table, sometimes a children’s table and lots of people. We all used to take turns reading around the table, some of us in English and some in Hebrew, all depending on each person’s comfort level. All of us included, by participating, we each took a little ownership of the Seder.
Many of the children went to the same local Jewish Day Schools where we learnt the Pesach tunes in readiness for Seder Night. We were taught stories, traditions, and prepared our own little titbits of information about the festival, to share with others at the table.
There is a well-known verse in the Passover Haggadah,
Kol dichfin yeitei v’yechul, let all who are hungry come in and eat.
But sometimes it is not food we are hungry for. We are hungry for company, we are hungry for inclusion, we hunger for a sense of belonging.
When you plan your Seder Night this year, open your home and try and squeeze in someone new. Invite them into your family, they already belong to your tribe.
Pesach is coming and there is an air of excitement that enters along with the preparation. This festival is a popular favourite across all sects of Judaism. From non-affiliated though to Orthodox Jews, the Seder Night is the jewel in our communal matzo crown.
So don’t forget the folding chairs.