First night seder was at my house. I am especially proud of the table set up...the individual bento boxes for ease of getting to one's seder items, the dainty flowers in the recycled cans, and of the laid back, friendly atmosphere. There were 12 children...two 9 weeks old, three under 2 years old, three 4 and under, three 8 and under, and one 13 years old. It is a tall order to reach all of the children in one seder. It can be done...just not (a) with our current Haggadah and (b) without all the adults working toward that end. It has been a while since this group had gotten together to socialize. We all enjoyed relaxing, socializing, catching up, drinking wine, letting the kids play...and doing all of that while interspersing the parts of the seder, including telling the story. It worked...albeit it was *kinda* noisy! I really treasure first night seder with this group and am thankful that I will always have "a family" with which to spend this important first night. Further, I am really glad that my children are going to grow up with the memory of being with the wonderful families that make up our chavurah. :)
Second night seder was quite different. I will admit--Rob and I were nervous. We were invited by M. and her rabbi husband. M. if you remember is the woman who is teaching me the prayers on Tuesdays. They are Israeli, Orthodox and for whatever reason, that was a little intimidating to us. I knew her parents were going to be there. They are visiting from Israel. As yesterday grew closer and closer, both Rob and I began to develop more and more social anxiety about it and when the event arrived, we were both tense. Add to that the fact that the seder was starting *after* Neviyah and Alia's bedtimes. You know how our children are predisposed to meltdowns, right?
It was wonderful. Capital W. Wonderful. M.'s parents were the best. They were the friendliest and most welcoming people I have probably ever met. We were instantly at ease and comfortable. M. and her children were equally welcoming and great hosts. M. was attentive and sensitive and extremely knowledgeable. Her husband--smart and kind--was easy to relate to and was a patient listener as well as skilled relater of midrash and such. Six additional people--all Israeli but one--were there as well. The non-Israeli happened to be a woman I was in Melton with. She has since become religious and she had a beautiful, reserved radiance about her.
The seder was fantastic! We used the Maxwell House but even so...it was interspersed with stories, drash, teachings...the seder part was conducted on the floor, tent-style, with lots of pillows and a folding table flat on the floor. At some parts, the children went in the other room with M. to come up with little, short story-telling skits. Seder items were only brought out when we got to them. Each glass was drank at least half way to all the way after each blessing--no sipping! The children were given manna (marshmallows) for each question during the seder that they came up with. They were encouraged to interrupt and ask-ask-ask whatever their little hearts desired.
The sense of community was really nice. It is so prominent in the Orthodox world. I guess living in such close proximity to other Jews lends itself to that. I found it to be exhilarating and something I wish were prominent in the Conservative world. As usual, these experiences create a yearning in me...to be more observant.
As we left, at 1:30 in the morning and before the whole thing was even over, M.'s parents gave us a lovely goodbye and invited us to Shabbat at their house "when we come to Israel." I had told them that we had never been...that I had applied to the Rubin Israel Experience and that we hope to some day be able to go to Israel. I also had brought a "Land of Israel" haggadah I bought a few years back that includes historic pictures of the settling of the land. They loved looking through it during the night.
All in all, I had a really nice time. I got a deeper experience of Passover and I have some wonderful child ideas for my seder next year. This year I learned that it may not be the best idea to freak out before-hand...and I should allow myself the joy of experiencing. Perhaps that is the way in which I am enslaved and for which I seek freedom. And I am tuning into that tugging...that yearning that I experience in certain realms. Why and what exactly is resonating with me...what does it mean...what can I do about it...what do I want to do about it...?