Is our Charedi seder different from others?
WE BEGIN after nightfall.
The table is resplendent in white and silver. The matzot — our own version of the marmite phenomenon, inspiring either love or hate — look extra crunchy. I’m sitting in an armchair, pillow propped under my left side for leaning purposes. As free men and women, we are supposed to recline while we drink our cups of wine, as royalty once did.
My father, as is common at the seder table in Charedi households, is wearing a kittel — the long white robe also worn on Yom Kippur.
Maggid, the telling of the story of going out of Egypt, is perhaps the most important part of the seder. As a child, this section seemed interminable.
At our table, we discuss some questions each year. What does “dayeinu” really mean? How can we possibly say, for example, that if God had led us out of Egypt, but had not split the Red Sea, that it would have been enough?
We have a special custom of our own, instituted by my father — prior to every Pesach he buys a new haggadah, introducing us to a range of further insights on the redemption story.
What is it about charoset that speaks to the Jewish psyche? In our house my mother makes three different types — Moroccan, Persian and Yemenite.
The meal is always fantastic, but we go easy on the wine. There are still two more halachically-mandated cups to get through, after all. Could they be done with grape juice? Yes? Will I be doing them with grape juice? Absolutely not. There’s nothing better than belting out the tunes of Hallel and Nirtzah while drunk with freedom — or rather, ever-so-slightly inebriated on Kedem or Manischewitz.
We usually finish at about 1.30am, which is early by Golders Green standards. It is not unusual for such sedarim to go on until 4am.
“Next year in Jerusalem”, we say. “Next year in a rebuilt Jerusalem”, say residents of that city. It is a reminder that, although we are far away from our previous circumstances of slavery, and the idea of a Pesach in the Holy City is no longer an impossible dream, we still seem far away from the greatest hope of religious Jews — the coming of the Messiah and the construction of the third temple, and the ultimate redemption.