Chag Sameach!


Maayan Jaffe

It’s almost Pesach. I have to admit that I am excited.

I know I’m among the minority of the Jewish people, but I like eating unleavened bread and cookies made out of ground almonds and potato starch. I especially like freshly ground horseradish.

But more than that, I love the Passover Seder.

When I was growing up, my family (and extended family, and their ext-ended family) used to gather in my bubbie and zayde’s home for the Seder. We would have upward of 50 people sitting around the table, each taking a turn to read from his or her haggadah. It was loud, and it was lively. And it was totally about the kids.

My zayde used to require that each unmarried person read the Ma Nishtanah aloud. After one’s bar or bat mitzvah, that sing-songy tune we all learn in elementary school became a sophisticated chat. We did it — however reluctantly. The reciting of the Ma Nishtanah could take a half-hour.

When we got to Echad Mi Yodea (Who Knows One?), my zayde would ask the children to answer all the questions. As we saw that song nearing in the haggadah, my siblings, cousins and I would dash to zayde’s library to remind ourselves of the six tractates of the Mishnah and the names and positions of each of the 12 tribes. Then we would shoot our hands in the air, vying for him to call on us to tell him all we learned.

My bubbie served stuffed cabbage, tzimes and pareve ice cream with fresh fruit.

Today, my zayde has passed away, and my family is both eclectic and spread all around the United States. For a while, after I married, I would have Pesach in Israel at my rabbi and rebbetzin’s home. For a couple of years, we would travel to Chicago to be with my aunt and uncle. For the last three years, we’ve made the Seder at home. I have to admit, I like it — and I try hard to be like my zayde — focused on the children.

My son, the oldest, is now 9. He makes the Seder so much fun, singing the Ma Nishtanah for four children — one from Iran, one from Israel, one from Germany and one from the U.S. His renditions are in Farsi, Hebrew, Yiddish and English, respectively.

Each year, his rebbes at Talmudical Academy prepare him with divrei Torah and little sparks and insights to contribute to the Seder. This year, I am expecting my oldest daughter, Netanya, 5, to have a lot to contribute, too.

Last year, I purchased silly plague bags, but I admit they added to the ambiance. Shlomo and Netanya put on a play about the makos (plagues) as we recited them. Of course, I had to reprimand Shlomo when he pretended to kill Netanya as part of the shpiel. I reminded him that he, in fact, is the first born.

My children hide the afikoman. When we sing Chad Gadya, we all get up and dance, giggling as the cat eats the goat.

The kids have already started asking for my Passover ketchup chicken and three types of charoset — Turkish, mango-pecan and, of course, the one bubbie always made.

Passover is a celebration of freedom. But, for me, it’s also a celebration of family — and a family celebration. Chag sameach!

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