Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Friday Apr 18

This the first Seder night
I celebrated with Sister Nettie


Matt's Notes

A "Seder," for those who aren't familiar with the term, refers to the traditional dinner served on the Jewish holiday of Passover (I point out that I'm Jewish because someone I met yesterday thought for sure my last name made me a Mennonite). The Seder combines special foods, prayers, and ritualized storytelling to commemorate the Exodus of Jews from Egypt (including all the good stuff from The Ten Commandments like the Ten Plagues and the drowning of Pharaoh's army).

Like many less religious Jews, I grew up skipping a number of the more drawn-out passages in the Passover Haggadah (the Seder instruction book) to shorten Seder's length. I remember my mother telling me, though, that Papa used to go into another room after our short Seders and finish the ritual himself, in Hebrew, while we went about our business. I always thought this was because he was older, religious, and stuck in his ways, but reading his diary makes me realize it was much more emotionally important to him than I originally believed.

The Seder commemorates the historical oppression of Jews, urges awareness of ongoing bigotry, and offers prayers for better times. For someone like Papa, who was forced out of his childhood home by anti-Semitism, lost much of his family to the Holocaust, and devoted so much of his life to the Zionist cause, the Passover message must have struck him with particular urgency. Also, we've seen before how milestones and holidays put Papa in reflective, often wistful moods; I wonder if his diary silence over the previous three days indicates a contemplative phase -- intensified by his ongoing worry of his far-off father's illness -- triggered by the onset of a holiday as family-oriented and personally resonant as Passover.

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