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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jones

First night seder!

Nineteen strangers, a garden apartment, Miller Light bottles for candlesticks, and the best damn brisket in the world. I spent Saturday night sitting on a pillow with a group of jews and gentiles, enjoying a first night seder. I wasn’t the only person on their first seder, but I was the only (almost) jew on their first. Lucky for me, there were four or five others on seder number one.

I got to Sara’s apartment and wasn’t the first person there. Anyone who knows me knows that I get to parties when the invitation says it starts. Generally this is a huge problem for hosts, but since this was a seder and we had to beat sunset–arriving on time is expected. Whew.

After everyone arrived, including one person I knew from a previous lifetime (stand-up comedy), we grabbed pillows, passed out wine glasses, opened lots of bottles of wine, and took our seats on the floor. We passed out the haggadahs and the haggadah inserts for a feminist perspective (Miriam’s Cup, the Four Daughters.) and got going.

What I loved about the night was that nobody wanted to skip ahead, cut short, or gloss over the hebrew parts. We did our best at the hebrew, read aloud individually and as a group, we sang, we ate bitter (BITTER) herbs, Hillel sandwiches, held up the shankbone, and drank the wine. We all got the warning at the beginning of the night, “You have to drink the whole glass of wine and there are four glasses during the seder. ONLY POUR WHAT YOU CAN HANDLE!” Warning heeded by all this year, unlike years in the past.

I found that my hebrew listening and reading skills are really improving. I even jumped in one one prayer on a pronunciation of a word. When I get lost, I can find my place in the text. I can’t explain what a good feeling it is, to be able to read along in hebrew. Do I know what I’m reading? Nope, but I can read along.

While Sara put the finising touches on the dinner, she hid the afikomen. The afikomen is a piece of Matza wrapped in a napkin and hidden. The funniest part of the night was 10 ADULTS in her tiny kitchen, searching and being unable to find the damn afikomen. The seder would not be complete without it, where could it be? Eventually she had to tell us, because we simply couldn’t find the darn thing.

The dinner was divine. Brisket, asparagus, matzah balls, kugel, and salad. It was the most wonderful meal and the most wonderful time. Eventually it came out that while my name is Leah and I wear a Star of David, I’m not quite jewish. It was such a great introduction to a wonderful tradition and holiday.

Around the country, this is American Jews favorite holiday. Even my secular friends keep kosher for the week. Everyone finds a seder and everyone retells the story of our escape from slavery. It is so much fun and I can’t imagine how wonderful it will be once I have a family of my own. For now I’m happy to attend orphan seders with people my age. It doesn’t get more fun than that, it really doesn’t.

Yom Tov!

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