Apr. 26th, 2016 11:49 am
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
[personal profile] liv
Yes, obvious pun, sorry. Anyway, the point is that I was really stressed about the beginning of Pesach and actually it was totally fine.

The first step was giving up on the prospect of ever doing Pesach cleaning "properly". I didn't have enough time, and I couldn't kasher a broken oven, and cleaning couldn't be a priority at my parents' place with everything else going on, and I still haven't worked out a good way to kasher the kitchen that I share with my non-Jewish husband in the house I only live in a couple of days a week.

So I turned up at my parents' on Friday morning, and our "small" family seder ended up being a dozen people, most of them original family plus partners. But we have things down to a fine art by now, and with my sister the chef managing, preparing the seder goes a lot more smoothly. I mostly washed up, which requires little thought and allows me to be in the kitchen chatting to everybody, and is an obvious contribution. We have a selection of dishes that reliably work, with room to try a couple of new things even in a stressful year, and P'tite Soeur is getting adept at making truly gluten free Pesach stuff rather than relying on matzah meal. So many amazing desserts, lemon pudding and caramel and nut torte and mango sorbet and chocolate dacquoise and the traditional little Passover cakes, cinnamon balls and coconut pyramids along with P'tite Soeur's new invention, totes amaze balls. There was enough slack to chat to Granny in between cooking, and for a day spent basically standing at the sink it was really surprisingly pleasant.

And seder itself was really pretty perfect. More than half the participants were fully familiar with the service, but we did have some new guests too, enough to make it feel real. So we didn't appoint a service leader, just let people chip in with whatever bits (or whatever vetoes) they wanted to offer, and nobody minded our horribly unmusical singing, and we had some real discussion, not just covering the same ground we do every year. Even the clearing up was pretty smooth, with everybody chipping in.

[personal profile] jack drove me up to Stoke for second night seder, and driving 150 miles isn't very appropriate for shabbat but at least we got a chance to talk. We had 30 people at the community seder; as every year, a team of experienced volunteers had done all the food preparation and set-up in advance, so I just had to turn up and do the liturgy. All our regulars turned up and we had a smattering of non-Jewish guests. I don't know why ordained Christian priests think some random Jewish chick is the right person to ask their New Testament interpretation questions, but I did my best, and hopefully explained the actual seder to their satisfaction too. And some actual, real live children, as opposed to the first night when my over thirty sister ended up asking the Four Questions. The 6 and 5-year-olds had both learned the questions and were at just the right age to be excited and interested and curious. And I even got a question which genuinely stumped me, thanks [personal profile] adam_in_rabbinical_school: does anyone happen to know on what basis we're permitted to break up the Hallel on Pesach?

And everybody had a good time. Well, except one woman who has a bit of a reputation for complaining about everything, who on this occasion complained that we were still going at 9 pm. I don't know how to make her happy, really, so I try not to worry about it too much. I thought I was pretty brisk, starting officially at 6 but a bit late cos everybody was milling around gossiping, actually eating by 7:30, and the whole thing completely wrapped up by 10. I did offer to start the seder at the halachically proper time of quarter past nine, after Shabbat was out, but nobody except me wanted to do that, so I made havdalah randomly in the middle of bentsching.

And at the end of the week I get to run a seder for my partners and their children. I was sort of hoping parents would join us if not invite the whole crowd of five extra people to their seder, but it's really not practically feasible this year. They are being really supportive with lots of advice, though, so I feel loved and accepted. I am trying not to get into a mindset of being excessively nervous because I want my loves' first ever seder to be perfect. We've been having lots of good conversations about doing the seder in an appropriately interfaith way.

If you've ever been a non-Jewish guest at a seder, please do comment with what sorts of things were helpful and welcoming, or what was confusing and alienating. I'm happy to hear suggestions from Jewish friends too, of course, but I'd particularly like to know about people's direct experiences.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-26 11:29 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ewt
Things that were helpful to me: stopping to explain stuff, especially any bits in Hebrew (which was most of it in my context at first!); making it clear that different families have different traditions; being warned to eat something first if it's going to be a long time before the substantial bit of the meal is served.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-28 03:46 am (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
When I did my 15 min seder for my cultural class in grad school, or rather when I was reviewing my haggadah in preparation for same, I realized that it used the word "redeem" a lot, and that was one thing I absolutely needed to explain explicitly for my goyische classmates. That word has specific theological meaning to Christians: "you are excused of your sins and get to go to heaven now". Most Americans completely absorb that meaning, regardless of their religious upbringing. So I needed to explain that that is not what "redeem" meant in the passages they would hear.

The way I did it was thus. Before ever getting to any usage of "redeem", I addressed the issue explicitly, saying, "You're going to hear the word 'redeem' used a lot. But it doesn't mean what you're used to it meaning. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but I understand that in the Christian tradition, 'redeem'ing is something Jesus Christ does, and it means to save people from the consequences of being sinners, being forgiven for their sins and getting to go to heaven." Everybody nodded along with this and said that sounded right. I went on, "In Judaism, 'redeem' doesn't mean 'gets to go to heaven'. It just means 'rescued' or 'kept from harm' or 'freed'. So you're about to hear a lot about God, through Moses, redeeming the Jews from slavery under Pharaoh."

The surprised and intrigued reaction I got suggested this was a good thing to have pointed out. Since it was a class on cross-cultural counseling, the students were taken with this example of how this thing that is pretty culturally omnipresent had a different meaning to Jews.

I seem to recall I did quite a bit of that – well, I mean, it was 15 minutes – pointing out examples of differences between Jewish and Christian cultural assumptions. For instance, if a seder is not the place to explain that, in Judaism, children asking questions is considered a good thing, and that discussion and debate and difference of opinion and thoughtful if even spirited argument are valued by Jews, as evidenced by the fact that it got baked right into high religious ceremonies, than I don't know what that place is. :)

The class seemed to like it.
Edited Date: 2016-04-28 03:49 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-26 11:45 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ewt
I don't know why ordained Christian priests think some random Jewish chick is the right person to ask their New Testament interpretation questions, but I did my best, and hopefully explained the actual seder to their satisfaction too.


I suspect this probably falls under some variation on "Jesus is Jewish, but I don't really know how to untangle all the various bits of Jewish scholarship to understand this better so I'll ask someone Jewish instead" but I can't be sure without knowing what the question was. I think there's a valid concern to try to represent Judaism fairly and positively which can be difficult when dealing with particular bits of the New Testament, but even well-meaning Christians can get quite tied up in knots about it.

I am really glad you and Jack got some time to talk, even if it was while traveling. And I'm glad you're feeling supported and accepted by your family even if the timing is all rather awkward this year.

Well, except one woman who has a bit of a reputation for complaining about everything, who on this occasion complained that we were still going at 9 pm. I don't know how to make her happy, really, so I try not to worry about it too much.

Some people just seem to enjoy complaining. If I can, I try to make sure they have something relatively trivial to complain about, but they're usually better at finding these things than I am! The other thing that sometimes helps is just letting complainers know that they are heard... in this case, some variation on "Yes, it's hard/annoying to stay out late, but some things do just take a while. I'm so glad you are here with the rest of the community anyway," might have helped. Or it might not. It's hard to tell in advance.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-26 01:26 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
This time it was mostly about handwashing

That one may have been my fault, I brought up Boyarin's theory about handwashing as something I thought he was likely to know about/be interested in, but couldn't remember the details enough to recount it properly.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-26 01:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] woodpijn.livejournal.com
I'm afraid I don't get the obvious pun...?

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-26 01:57 pm (UTC)
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
From: [personal profile] seekingferret
It's a Hebrew pun. B'seder is a slangy Hebrew way of saying everything is going fine, but it also means "at the Seder".

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-26 07:49 pm (UTC)
andrewducker: (Default)
From: [personal profile] andrewducker
Aaah. I was thinking Liv was B'sederself.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-26 09:33 pm (UTC)
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
From: [personal profile] seekingferret
Careful with your assumptions, you don't want to upseder.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-26 09:36 pm (UTC)
andrewducker: (Default)
From: [personal profile] andrewducker

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-26 03:37 pm (UTC)
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
From: [personal profile] seekingferret
Chag sameach!

I don't have a good answer to your Hallel question halachically, but there was an interesting homiletical take on it in a YU Torah publication that came out shortly before the chag. Rabbi Blech argues that the parts of Hallel we recite before Shulchan Orech commemorate Hashem's past triumphs and the parts after the meal emphasize future g'ulah.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-27 06:11 am (UTC)
lethargic_man: (capel)
From: [personal profile] lethargic_man
What I heard is that we split Hallel around the meal to show that the meal is an integral part of the seder, and not just refreshments afterwards.

About the timing this year, I was hosting a second seder. I invited guests for 7:30, and we had the first two courses of our meal as a seuda shlishis. Then we bentshed shortly before Shabbos went out, then davened ma`ariv and started the seder, having dessert for our festive meal, and that we we could do the seder after nacht, as you're supposed to, and still be finished shortly after midnight (wallclock midnight, not halachic midnight).

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-26 04:27 pm (UTC)
cremains: (Default)
From: [personal profile] cremains
This question presupposes that Hallel exists as a pattern prior to application and in particular that this pattern is the version we do at shaharith. Just something to notice.

The Talmud says that the reason we recite Hallel at the seder table is because its discrete parts are valuable, reminding us of different important things; whereas at shaharith we are using the fused unit to accomplish something singular and specific, which is praising God. Pesahim 118a:

וכי מאחר דאיכא הלל הגדול אנן מ"ט אמרינן האי משום שיש בו ה' דברים הללו יציאת מצרים וקריעת ים סוף ומתן תורה ותחיית המתים וחבלו של משיח יציאת מצרים דכתי' (תהילים קיד) בצאת ישראל ממצרים וקריעת ים סוף דכתיב (תהילים קיד) הים ראה וינוס מתן תורה דכתי' (תהילים קיד) ההרים רקדו כאילים תחיית המתים דכתיב (תהילים קטז) אתהלך לפני ה' חבלו של משיח דכתיב (תהילים קטו) לא לנו ה' לא לנו

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-27 02:52 am (UTC)
rushthatspeaks: (Default)
From: [personal profile] rushthatspeaks
Yeah, I think emphasizing which parts are the actual liturgy and which parts are personal/familial tradition will be very helpful, because going to different people's Seders can almost be like going to a different celebration. I think people coming from a Christian background aren't used to the same ritual being that different for different families when the people doing it are from the same sect, have similar worship practices, and so on-- a lot of Christian churches have in my experience really standardized the order of service and the things they do at holidays, so that you can go to different churches in the same denomination and get exactly the same service, except for the sermon and whatever incidental music the organist has picked. And Seders just don't work that way.

I'm not Jewish, but my in-laws are, and every year there are two different geographical clusters of the family at Passover. Same politics, same ideas about worship and the cultural role of Judaism, closely related people who interact with each other frequently. This year, for reasons, my wife and I wound up at the cluster we don't usually go to, and everything from the haggadot to the contents of the Seder plate were different. All of it in ways that make sense, like, one side is composed almost entirely of vegetarians and so they made a lamb shank bone out of clay and use it every year, while the other side uses a real bone, and I see how this happened; one side puts an orange on the Seder plate and reads antiphonally the Marge Piercy poem about oranges and the role of women in Judaism, and this is directly traceable to a women's studies class somebody took in the late eighties and so the other side doesn't do it. That sort of thing. But it could get very confusing to somebody without any related experience.

I note that both sides have found ways to integrate serving enough food within the service to keep everyone from keeling over, although they are different ways-- one side puts out veggies-and-dip beforehand, serves everyone two or three roasted eggs with the bitter herbs (parsley) if desired, and has the classic Hillel sandwiches of matzo, horseradish, and charoset at the time the charoset is discussed, which works pretty well; the other side doesn't serve appetizers but brings out the matzo ball soup when matzo is discussed, and leaves actually answering the Four Questions until after dinner. This also seems to work, though it will probably shift some when there are no longer small children. The important thing seems to be not having giant stretches in which there is nothing to eat at all.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-28 04:12 am (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
Having followed the link to your sister's site, I am now quietly flipping out to have – at long, long, long last – learned that they're called "bakewell tarts" and now I can go google for them.

I haven't had any since Tea Tray in the Sky closed, over a decade ago. They just called them "frangipane tarts", which, yes, okay, true, but not, it turns out, searchable or adequately specific.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-30 05:35 pm (UTC)
cjwatson: (Default)
From: [personal profile] cjwatson
I rather wish I had noticed and read this before the seder for various reasons, but thank you again :-)

One question I meant to ask last night but didn't get round to it: how is the bit in Exodus 12:43-49 about "no foreigner shall eat of it" etc. squared in modern Jewish thought with having non-Jewish guests? (I would have been more concerned to ask that in advance if it hadn't already been clear that you'd had non-Jewish guests at seders before, it obviously wasn't a thing you were doing just for us.) Is that one of the things you mentioned where it's been construed as time-dependent?


Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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