Jews with Views – Pesach Edition 5784

What is the most meaningful Seder night you have ever experienced?

BY REBBETZIN CHANNAH HAMBLING

In 2020, three weeks before we set to fly to the UK for Pesach, our flight was canceled and Israel went into full lockdown. Like a lot of people, we had to make Pesach for the first time. But when my husband and I sat down to begin our Seder – just the two of us – there was a profound sense of calm. From all around our yishuv, we heard songs being sung and words of the Haggadah being said.

As we neared the end of our Seder, my five-month-old baby girl woke up just in time for Hallel and Nirtzah. Holding my baby and singing to Hashem, thanking Him for everything He does for us, was a special moment. Pesach is a festival for continuing our nation’s history. That year, when we made our own Seder for the first time, we added our own link to the chain of the Jewish history.

Rebbetzin Channah Hambling grew up in London. She studied at Midreshet Yeud and participated in World Mizrachi and Matan’s Lapidot program. She is currently the Community Rebbetzin at Birmingham Central United Synagogue.

BY RABBI DANIEL KAPLAN

Rav Soloveitchik once said that the two most exalted nights in his life were the Pesach Seder and Kol Nidrei on Yom Kippur. I resonate so much with that sentiment, because the Pesach Seder has always been one of the highlights of my year, as both a child and as an adult.

When I was a child, we usually would go out to different families for the Pesach Seder. But when I was a teenager, my parents decided to have a Seder at home with our entire extended family. Seeing my father conduct that Seder was very moving and meaningful, and I have tried to inculcate his customs into my own Sedarim.My most memorable Seder was during Covid in 2020, when South Africa was in complete lockdown, and we could only be with our immediate family. Everything we prepared was for our children, because there were just the 5 of us at the table – our 3 children, my wife and myself. The amount of preparation we put into that Seder, to make it the most exciting and unforgettable night, will stay with me forever, because it really highlighted the true essence of a Seder – teaching it to your children and making it an experience they will never forget. In that intimate setting, I felt connected to our national story and the privilege of passing it onto the next generation. For me, this is the most exciting part of Pesach – not the big, glamorous Sedarim that many strive for, but the intimate time with our families and the duty and privilege of passing the story on to our children. By giving them positive, proud, Jewish experiences we can continue to build Am Yisrael and the Jewish people. Am Yisrael Chai!

Rabbi Daniel Kaplan is the Executive Director of Mizrachi South Africa and also rabbi of Bnei Akiva South Africa.

BY RABBANIT DR. TAMARA SPITZ

Over the years, I have spent many Seder nights in various places. In my childhood, Seder was with my grandparents in Washington Heights, and I spent my teenage years at my parents’ table in Queens. But my most memorable Seder night experience was the year my husband and I, with our two young children, moved to Alon Shvut. We had recently made Aliyah and it was our first Pesach alone, without any other family present. Growing up, Seder night always meant family time. But this was the first time we needed to navigate it ourselves. A wonderful family in the neighborhood invited us over for the Seder. We realized something was different as soon as we entered the house. The living room floor was covered in mattresses and carpets. After making kiddush at the table, everyone was asked to find a place in the living room. Maggid was read and discussed on couches and pillows. Our children had the best time! We had always celebrated Pesach night around a table, in a formal way that lasted many hours and could sometimes be a challenge for young children. That year, in Alon Shvut, we experienced a new and exciting way to celebrate Seder night. Since that year, we have adopted that custom as our own to the great enjoyment of all participants. 

Rabbanit Dr. Tamara Spitz is the Rosh Beit Midrash and a Mashgicha Ruchanit of Midreshet Torah v’Avodah. She lectures on various topics in Gemara, including Daf Yomi, Halacha, and Tefilah. Dr. Spitz is part of the World Mizrachi Speakers Bureau, lectures at Web Yeshiva and served as the Jewish Studies Principal of Instituto Yavne, one of the main Jewish day schools of Montevideo, Uruguay. She also runs a Chiropractic practice specializing in Women’s Health in Gush Etzion and is a Hip-Hop dance teacher.

BY SHIVI HIMMELSTEIN

Upon reflection, I experienced my most meaningful Seder with just my close family during the Covid pandemic. My grandpa had just passed away in England, and we were stuck watching the funeral on Zoom. Because of the lockdowns, my mum sat shiva alone just before Pesach began. Covid reminded me of the Jews’ first Seder: “And none of you shall go out of the door of his house” (Shemot 12:22). Incredibly, my wife’s grandparents made Pesach themselves that year for the first time – after 60 years of marriage! 

It was a bittersweet year, as people usually cross the country for huge family gatherings and to refresh long friendships over the Seder night. “Take lambs for your families” (Shemot 12:21). It was just our small family on the most important family night of the year.

The essence of Seder night is “וְהִגַּדְתָּ לְבִנְךָ, and you shall tell your child” – continuing Jewish history by teaching the next generation. It all begins with the immediate family, and that’s where it counts the most. Being together, a family, as one.

Maybe that’s what made it so meaningful. It was simple, genuine, real, and uplifting to focus on the parent-child relationship, to see siblings discuss the Exodus and to strengthen that family bond which makes the Jewish people who we are. It was the silver lining of the Covid pandemic – and one I hope we can capture again.

Shivi Himmelstein and his wife Shira are the World Bnei Akiva and Mizrachi shlichim in Perth, Australia. They are graduates of World Mizrachi’s Shalhevet program.

BY SHOSHANA JUDELMAN

Until I was 7, my Zeide led all of our Sedarim. He was an old world Polish Jew, and he led the Seder exactly that way – quickly reading through the Haggadah with little room for audience participation. In many ways it was beautiful… but it left little room for me to connect. 

The first year my father stepped into the role of leader, he asked us kids to help him prepare. I remember sitting with him and my siblings going through the Haggadah, writing notes indicating where he should stop, because one of us had a song to add or a small dvar Torah to share. 

That year, I felt included and empowered. I believe every Seder that I have experienced since is, in some way, an offshoot of that first year – the year I tasted what it meant to contribute to the Seder and begin building my own personal connection to Judaism. I still remember the feeling when it was my turn to share. It was a moment of pride, joy, hope and growth. May Hashem bless us with the patience to open that door of opportunity for ourselves and our children, and with the strength to believe we can all walk through it.

Shoshana Judelman teaches Chassidut for the Shirat David Community in Efrat and for Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya in Jerusalem. She is a guide in Poland with JRoots and co-leads inspirational trips to Ukraine and around Eretz Yisrael. Shoshana has served as a guide at Yad Vashem since 2014.

© 2024 World Mizrachi

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