We had a great seder last night, and I’m looking forward to another great, but longer, one tonight. Steve did the honors, making sure everyone participated; we got through most of the Haggadah, learned some things, had a few laughs. Pictures when I get home.

This was nothing like the seders of my childhood. They were always somber and more than a little agonizing. Truth to tell, everything about Judaism was like that when I was a child. Between the war (WWII), antisemitism and my father’s paranoia about antisemitism, it was not a fun scene. My grandmother, who lived with us, sat at the head of the table, usurping my father’s place, although I never heard him complain. She and my father would race through the readings in the Haggadah, entirely in Hebrew or Aramaic, their Austrian accents making them sound like they had stones in their mouths. I would follow, reading the English translation, which was stilted and not altogether intelligible to me.

My mother, whose only interest was cooking would sit there asking when she could start serving the food. There is a lot of reading and discussion before you get to eat.

The Haggadah, in addition to praising God, is primarily a discussion about how to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt. In fact, the Exodus plays only a small part in the story, the recounting of the ten plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. It is almost as though everyone knew the story so well they didn’t have to repeat it in the Haggadah. Moses and Aaron get short shrift, as does Joseph and how the Israelites got to Egypt.

Unlike my childhood seders, in which I had almost no part except to sit quietly and behave, Steve had all of us reading, mostly in English, and discussing what was written, what was omitted, and what it means for us today. Good job. We had a great dinner; Renee’s matzoh balls are easily as good as my mother’s; we finished reading and singing the songs about 10 pm and had time to visit for a while.

All of this was punctuated by the sirens from the Pope’s motorcade as he went up the FDR to a youth rally in Yonkers and returned to Manhattan. I have some pictures of that, also.

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