Sunday, March 27, 2011

Thirty-Minute Seder? Thumbs Down!

Passover 2009
Passover 2009
Perusing the New York Times magazine this morning, I came across an ad for a haggadah for a 30-minute seder.  I don’t know about you, but after you’ve spent days (or perhaps even weeks) preparing for this most beloved and widely celebrated of festivals—shopping, sweeping the chamatz from the house, perhaps changing the dishes, setting the table, cooking, cooking and more cooking—why, oh why, would you want to retell the story of the Exodus in a mere 30 minutes?? 

Last year (on this very weekend, in fact), I took the train out to my parents’ house in New Jersey to help finish the cooking and the table setting.  My mother had not been well for a few weeks and we were planning a somewhat scaled back seder – the kind where everyone fits at just one table and neither bridge tables nor oddly assorted chairs collected from throughout the house are required.  By the time we all turned in on that Sunday night, the table was set with the good dishes and our bright yellow haggadot, and the fridge was fully stocked with matzo ball soup, tri-colored gefilte fish loaf, brisket, roast chicken, charoset, and the rest of the fixings for what my father – in a terrible mix of metaphors – might call “a down home Passover.”

Little did we know then that that night, Sunday, March 28, 2010, would be the last one my mother would ever spend in the home where she’d lived for nearly 38 years.  Monday morning, March 29th, erev Pesach, found us at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital where we’d spend the next seven weeks tending to her as her health spiraled downward and she battled her own personal Mitzraim before entering hospice on Shavuot.

So, do I want a 30-minute seder this year?  Not a chance.  Although I know that the full-blown “down home seders” of the past at 12 Webster Road are – like my mother’s physical presence – gone, they, and she, live on and will be with us when we gather once again in a few weeks to tell the story of our Exodus from Egypt.  Our celebration will, no doubt, be sad and joyful, filled with laughter and tears, music and memories.  Most of all, though, it will be a lot longer than 30 minutes.