Blognik Beat

How My Seder is Different

By Ryan Yuffe

  • Print
  • Share Share
Ryan Yuffe

Year to year there isn’t much change when it comes to my Passover Seder. Wine, matzo, and politics are always the dominant features. But this year I want to be conscious of the message the Haggadah provides and what it means to me.

Searching for that meaning forces me to look back on the vastly divergent Passovers experienced by my parents. The Seders my mother grew up around in the United States were rooted in tradition. It would run continuously through the night, reaching far past midnight because her father refused to miss a single word of the Haggadah. Every prayer was said, each song was recited, and her father would even dress up as Elijah the prophet. I try to look back and imagine my grandfather leading the Seder and I see the meticulousness with which he recited the Haggadah. I see him focusing intently on each word, each prayer, and each explanation. I hear him speaking in his calm yet demanding voice to all the guests at the table that God had once again brought us back to Eretz Yisrael, and that hopefully next year we would rejoice in Jerusalem.

At the same my grandfather was reciting those words, my father was in Odessa, secretly attempting to find matzo for a Seder that was illegal. In Soviet Russia, the Seder was an affront to communist ideology. Therefore, any attempt to buy matzo, recite a prayer, or hold a Seder would be punished, sometimes severely. Despite the yearly struggle my father and his family went through every year, they were usually able to find a small amount of matzo. Their Seder, however, was in no way comparable to that of my mother’s. My father, his friends and family, would sit around a table and enjoy a dinner much like any other, except at this one they would eat matzo.

None of the tedious reading my grandfather focused on so much was done. In many ways, the story my grandfather was telling was one that my father was living; except for my father it was taking place in the Soviet Union instead of Egypt. It was my father and his family who were waiting to be liberated, to become much like those characters in the Exodus story that were freed from Pharaoh’s oppression.

In Judaism, there is a certain belief that implores us to be conscious of each action we make. There are specific prayers to say on food, on holidays or even when we see a rainbow. The laws are created to open our eyes to the world in front of us. Therein lies the meaning I have been searching for this year’s Seder. Being conscious of my every action means following a careful and somewhat painstaking act of following through in everything I do as my grandfather did by reading through every single word in the Haggadah. It means taking risks in the name of what I believe and know is right as my father did by sneaking matzo into his home. For this year’s Seder I hope to follow in the path my father and grandfather have laid out for me, yet still see the world in my own new way.

Ryan Yuffe, 18, was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y. He is a freshman studying at Brandeis University.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Soviet Union, Russian Jewish, Pesach, Passover, Haggadah

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.