The Weirdest Seder Ever
Ok, I knew it was risky agreeing to make a Seder at my 21 year old daughter’s house in Yerushalayim this year. She promised 2 things: one, that she would be high, and two, (at my insistence) that we would finish the complete Hagada.
I did have an invitation for her and myself at the home of a neighbor on the yeshuv that would have been great for me. I thought she would be comfortable there because the woman who invited us was a single mother of 5 kids between the ages of 15 and 21, my daughter’s age.
But then my daughter’s friend had no place to go for a Seder. And, my daughter had to work motzei Shabbat, and there was no way to get her to Yerushalayim on time because it takes a couple hours for the buses to start back up after Shabbat. In my mind it is a crime against Hashem to tell a Jew who wants to attend a Seder, sorry, you can’t help. But I didn’t feel I could invite one more to a single mother’s table.
So, I went to Yerushalayim Thursday and kashered my daughter’s kitchen for Pesach, and basically cleaned her whole house. She had to work 3rd shift. She mopped the floors. And helped me shlep the heavy part of the groceries I brought.
With Shabbat approaching, I was so tired my eyes were falling shut without my permission. I was in so much pain I could no longer walk upright. Coffee wasn’t fixing the problem. I lay on the bed for a rest. Like an apparition my daughter appeared: “ Mom, there’s a guy who doesn’t have a Seder to go to.”
“So invite him.”
“But Mom, he’s a little bit ‘different.’”
(Long rambling story during which I realised my daughter was high.)
“Look,” I said, “ Just invite him. It’s sad that whoever he knows either isn’t having a Seder or doesn’t want him.”
An hour later, having lit candles, I was sitting in the clean living room staring at the white tablecloth on the table, wondering why I wasn’t feeling the joy I normally feel at Pesach post cleaning, or the post bench licht Shabbat glow.
Next thing I knew, I was waking up on the couch to the sound of whispered voices.
The guests had arrived.
He introduced himself as Eliyahu. I think he was joking. He had black hair, long on just one side, black eyes, and a black beard. Her name was Ella, a psychology student. She was a blond, cheerful, talkative, and high as a kite. She said she was going to make a salad. She had a grocery bag with 2 large tomatoes in it. My daughter hates tomatoes.
I was sitting up trying to wake up, had said “welcome,” and “nice to meet you,” but I was not fully awake yet when I heard him say, “I didn’t bring anything. I had some nice acid, but I ate it already. I could get you some more, if you want it.”
And I said the first thing that came into my head, which was, “Ew.”
Which apparently scared him because they all crowded into the hallway talking in lowered voices out of view of me.
When I got up to join the conversation, like a herd, they moved together into one of the unused bedrooms, still talking in undertones. I went and laid down on my daughter’s bed, frustration, confusion and physical pain all conflicting for attention in my head.
“Um, WTH is this? For THIS I cleaned, cooked, spent every penny I owned, shlepped, and gave up an enjoyable meal I didn’t cook? There goes our sweet little Seder. Chances of making it through the entire Hagada just went to zilch.”
That’s approximately what was going through my head.
Several times I came out of the room to ask my daughter could we PLEASE start the Seder now, I’m way exhausted.
She kept telling me “ Not yet Mom, soon. This guy has had some awful news, you can’t believe what he’s going through. We are trying to calm him down. Just give me a little time.”
I’ll be honest– I was a little pissy about it. Some guy shows up stoned on acid for your Seder. He hijacks the night- one of the most special of the year. No one wants the Seder anymore because they are all about nurturing him. Who the hell DOES that?
Everytime I started to lose it, my daughter would beg me to be calm and have compassion on him. A part of me recognised that this situation came directly from Hashem. We were given a human soul in great pain to share our Seder with. What would I do? Be mad that I had completely lost what tiny remnant of control I had? A part of me was screaming that he needed to be GONE- to the hospital or wherever. Back to where he lived, to his roomate. Another part of me was davening, “Please, Hashem, help me to be your humble servant.”
Another part of me heard the drasha I had read, by Hershel Gluck: “Make sure the kids enjoy themselves.”
The Seder was not about me. The cleaning, the cooking may have been about me; the burning the chometz was certainly about me. But the table, as beautiful as I could make it, with two stained white tablecloths overlapping to form one complete, cut roses from the yard in a small waterglass, cheapo plasticware, and all the pillows the household owned, miraculously in matching blue pillowcases, the Seder and the Meal, those are for the kids.
And after hours, we were on. The young man, declining his place at the table, curled up on the couch with his head angled so he could look directly at me.
I said one last prayer: “Please, Hashem, let it not be about me. Let the kids have a beautiful Seder.”
We had two Hagadas. One I brought with me from The States, was English/Hebrew transliterated. The other, which came from one of my daughter’s roomate’s Lone Soldier package, was completely in Hebrew.
But I believe we should pray in the language we understand, since we are connecting to G-d and need to cry from our hearts. And remembering our journey out of Egypt should also be done in a language we understand.
So I picked up the English Hagada-and gave it to my daughter to read the order of the Seder. We sang Manishtana. We passed that little book around and around, and chanted, prayed, sang and discussed.
From the couch, our Eliyahu informed us that not only had he attended Yeshiva all the way through highschool, but he had a photographic memory and could speak fluent Hebrew, Ladino and Arabic. He asked to say some of the prayers in Ladino, and did so in a beautiful fluent singsong.
As we read the description of the wicked son, the cutting off from Bnei Yisroel, the acid trip dragged him deep into his fears and he muttered,“Oh man, that’s really scary.”
“No.” I said to him. “You are NOT the wicked son. You came for a Seder. You wanted to be here. “
I can see his dark eyes peering at me from under the quilt the girls had piled on him, curled into a frightened ball. Please, Hashem, Let him feel a part of our Seder.
And I proceeded to speak for all the sons who are not at a Seder, (including my own), who don’t care, who are hurt, or angry, or confused about where G-d is in this world and what He is doing. They are our sons. They are a part of us. We will always love them and open our doors for them, and pray for them, and never ever give up in them.
As we discussed the Rabbinic discussions in the Hagada, Eliyahu felt well enough to sit at the table and contribute small tidbits to the conversation. During the meal, he ate a bit of my lemon shnitzel (my family’s traditional Seder meal).
I asked each of our guests to tell a little about how they came to be here in Yerushalayim and he seemed quite lucid and listened with interest to what each person was saying. Then he excused himself and went to the guest room and crashed while the girls finished off Hallel and the closing songs sweetly.
Eliyahu Ha Navi’s cup was still full to the brim this morning when I woke. It’s now late motzi Shabbat and I am crying as I reflect on this, the weirdest and one of the most meaningful Sederim I have ever had.
May we see Moschiach soon, to speedily heal us, and I don’t just mean kids on drugs. Those who weren’t at any Sederim, those who couldn’t, or wouldn’t invite an uncomfortable guest, those who, like me, struggle with their need for control, of their pride, or their need to judge. Those who have children and grandchildren missing from their Seder tables and struggle with fear and pain from that. And those who are so far gone they don’t even realize they have any of those problems, because their children are doing so well, and their Sederim are always perfect, and their lives are as they should be, as their parents were. They see the harshness of the words about wicked sons as permission to judge and separate and isolate themselves.
We are all Bnei Yisroel, all part of a whole.