Last Saturday evening, Congregation Emeth held its largest seder ever. Sixty-five members and guests attended our Moroccan seder, not because of the unique dinner menu (as said by the participants surveyed at the end of the seder), but because they wanted to come together as a community to observe the holiday.
Originally it was only the food that would be Moroccan but in the months and weeks before, I began studying the customs of Moroccan and other Sephardic (Jews primarily from Spain, Portugal, North Africa, and parts of the Middle East) and incorporated many of those customs in our seder. I was struck by both the similarities and the differences. How wonderful that Jews around the world observe this holiday in a very similar way. All of us use a Haggadah, whose contents don’t vary much (except for the modern thematic ones). They essentially follow the same order and include the same rituals.
But there are noticeable differences. For example, a Sephardic haggadah has the blessing for the wine only before the first and third cups. The second cup of wine is “covered” by the first blessing, and the fourth is “covered” by the third. Some Sephardic customs have a chair for Elijah instead of Elijah’s cup. And there are more subtle differences but ultimately the seders are very similar.
The point is that we are all part of one family, sharing our history together, telling our children that were it not for the miracles of Passover, they and their children and their children’s children would still be slaves in the land of Israel!
Chag Pesach Sameach – Happy Passover holiday!
Rabbi Debbie Israel