Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Learning to Ask ~ Passover Preparation

ראש חודש ניסן תשע"א
Rosh Chodesh Nissan 5771

Frume Sarah's World is hosting Haveil Havalim #311- The Warp and Woof Edition here. Ima on (and off) the Bima has the latest Kosher Cooking Carnival here
 Like everyone else, I am getting ready for Pesach. Of course I'm cleaning, planning menus and shopping planning to shop. There is Pesach in the air here. The day after Purim, all the stores are advertising cleaning materials and housewares. Pesach has taken over the airwaves and the advertising.
Our shiurim (classes) are all about Pesach, getting ready for the holiday spiritually and practically. This Shabbat we announced the coming month of Nissan and read the Maftir emphasizing the importance this month, calling it THE month. And what a month it is!
 No holiday beats Passover for nostalgia. I believe that some of my earliest memories are of the seder night. I remember sitting at the table in my grandparents house and my grandfather getting up to go to the kitchen to wash his hands and my mother calling me over to take a matza from the table. She said "we"ll hide this in the other room while grandpa is washing" and we went into the small closed porch where there was no light on because my baby brother was asleep there (just shows how long ago that was) and she said to me "we'll wrap it in this diaper and put it here near the baby so they won't see it". I remember feeling vaguely confused as to why my grandfather was making such a fuss about getting up from the table to go to the kitchen and why we needed to put the matza near the baby.
 Then first grade rolls around and I am attending an all day Jewish school where we learn Jewish subjects and Hebrew reading in the morning and the three R's in English in the afternoon. We have been given a Hagada and we must learn the Ma Nishtana (4 Questions) by heart in time for the seder. We spend  what seemed like weeks repeating the Hebrew words alternately with the Yiddish translation.
Tate, ikh vil dir fregn de fir kashes
Ma nishtana halayla hazeh mikol haleylot.
Farvos iz di nakht fun peysekh andersh fun ale nekht fun a gants yor?
The Yiddish, it was explained to us, was so that our grandparents would understand (and be impressed with us). My memory of getting up that year and singing this is of a great feeling of accomplishment at having done it and lots of smiles and encouragement from the assembled mixed with a total blank as to understanding what I was saying. I'm glad my grandparents understood what I was singing, because I certainly didn't. Oh well. What I did understand was what the English teacher taught us and that was this song:

At the time, I didn't know it was associated with slavery in America. I really did think it was about Moses and the Jews.Over the years I have developed an understanding of the significance of feeling that I too was led out of Egypt and have tried to pass it on to the next generation. Now, dozens of seders later I am getting ready once again. Only now it's my turn to prompt grandchildren to 'steal' from their grandfather and ask questions. What a privilege!

4 comments:

Batya said...

risa, great story. Our big family sdarim were less traditional. Lots of cousins, aunts and uncles all taking turns reading from the Hagaddah, then we ate and never finished, but I thought that it was supposed to end with the food.

Ben-Yehudah said...

Believe it or not, this song was sung in Meah Shearim, at at least [probably only] one home for many years at the Seder,...save for the one stanza which is not kosher. I believe there is one.

Ben-Yehudah said...

Believe it or not, this song was sung in Meah Shearim, at at least [probably only] one home for many years at the Seder,...save for the one stanza which is not kosher. I believe there is one.

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