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A Vision of Tradition

Azriela Jaffe

No Yom Tov is as rife with minhagim as Pesach, and many of us follow traditions passed down over centuries. But how does the Seder look in the homes of those who have rediscovered Torah? How does one create a mesorah when none exists?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Zalman holds tight to one minhag his secular father passed down. “My father made Kiddush every Friday night, and he always stood throughout,” relates the sixty-year-old who’s become increasingly more observant over the last twenty years. “He wasn’t observant, and he passed on little else in terms of mesorah, but out of respect for my father, I stand when I recite Kiddush.”

Pesach is Zalman’s favorite Yom Tov, hands down, inspired by his childhood experiences of driving to synagogue and “Sunday night treif Chinese food.”

“When I was young, I looked forward to our family Pesach Sedarim with great anticipation. Although our family wasn’t frum, my maternal grandfather was very committed to a beautiful Seder, and it was the highlight of our year as a family. I sat next to my grandfather and across from my cousin and we would read the entire Haggadah in Hebrew while the rest of the family members read it in English.

“In Hebrew school every Tuesday afternoon, from Purim to Pesach, we learned the Pesach songs with our synagogue cantor, a holocaust survivor with an operatic voice. Our Sedarim were a rousing affair, lasting into the early morning hours. Grandma would make delicious hors d’oeuvres, which we ate with relish, so we weren’t hungry during the Seder. There was such ruach, it made a real impression on me, and till this day, I hear my grandfather’s tunes echoing in my ears.”

When Zalman leads his family Seder today, his grandfather’s spirit is present at the table. His children have absorbed those tunes over the years and will hopefully continue his grandfather’s mesorah in their own homes in the future. It’s been at least three generations since there was a a shomer Shabbos Jew in Zalman’s family. Yet, the little mesorah that he gleaned from his ancestors, he cherishes and preserves. It may not be a thick rope connecting him with the past, perhaps only a single thread, but that thread has proven unbreakable.


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