2710 Genesee St.
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A Message from Cantor Socolof

CantorAs I sit to write this article, it is the third week of March.  I was informed this morning of the decision to cancel the traditional community seder.  At the very least, this will present a change in routine for many in our community.  Some may be able to find a small seder they can attend, but I suspect that many will not.  Of those who cannot, I expect that even if they have run a seder before, it has been many years since.

In light of all of this, I thought it might be a good idea to give some pointers on running a seder.  Let me say right up front that this is not a how-to for the kitchen side of things.  There are many sites that present a multitude of options for your seder meal.  They can be simple or complex.  Rest assured that it doesn‟t really matter.

The fundamental focus of the seder is the telling of the story of the exodus from Egypt.  This is the end to which all of the unusual practices and foods are aimed.  As it is written, “And it will be, if your child asks you saying,„What is this?‟ you will answer, “With a mighty hand, God took us out of Egypt, from the house of bondage.” (Exodus 13:14)  Any stories, songs, costumes, puppet shows (yes, some seders use them) or other device to spur conversation about the exodus is not just fair game, but encouraged.

As we recount in the Hagadah, Rabban Gamliel said that if you don‟t cover three things at the seder, you haven‟t done the job.  They are: the Passover sacrifice, matzah and maror.  So be sure, as you go through things, to mention these elements and their significance.

You should have a seder plate.  The traditional elements include beitzah (a roasted egg representing the Passover sacrifice), carpas (the green vegetable we will dip in salt water), maror (typically horseradish,   grated   or in  slivers),  chazeret (another form of maror; usually either onion or romaine lettuce), charoset (yum!), and zeroah (also representing the Passover sacrifice; optimally the shankbone of a lamb, but a chicken drumstick will do in a pinch).  In more recent days, some have added oranges and glasses of water.  If you want to be a little iconoclastic, try using unsweetened baking chocolate (not bittersweet or semi-sweet) for your maror.  It won‟t clear your sinuses, but it won‟t be much fun, either, and that‟s the point. 

You must have some matzah.  At least for the seder, avoid egg matzah for the real thing.  Also, of course, wine or grape juice.  Please check that it is Kosher for Passover; not all kosher wine or grape juice is.

The first seder that Vicki and I held in our home was just us and a colleague and his wife, neither of whom was Jewish.  As it happens, I was the youngest one there.  Consequently, even though I was running the seder, I asked the four questions.  All of us are capable of asking questions.  So, too, all of us are capable of providing at least part of the answer.  If you choose to do a traditional seder, great.  If you choose to use an alternative Hagadah (and there are many available), wonderful.  If you choose to skip both of these options and put one together yourself, that‟s fine.  In any event, let us tell the story and praise God for His deliverance.  And when we get to Nirtzah, the final part of the seder, as we declare “Next year in Jerusalem,” we can silently add “or, at least, Utica.”

Cantor Socoloff

Contact Cantor Socoloff at uticacantor@verizon.net