Seder night is a time for family, but like in every Jewish home, there are always a few quirky members and guests who keep the Seder lively. Still, the oddities and eccentricities of Seder participants are part of what make the evening so memorable. Maybe they should’ve stuck to grape juice. Maybe they had too much matzah. Or maybe they were a little too liberal with the salt-water — but either way, Seder night always seems to bring out everyone’s peculiarities. While there may only be four sons in the Haggadah, there are at least five types of Seder participants. Here are my Top 5:
1. Too Old for the Afikomen
There is a limited age-range where it’s still cute to try and steal the afikomen — somewhere between six and nine. They get the game. It keeps them involved. The younger kids may want to play, but they are either really bad at hiding it or they fall asleep or forget where they put it when it is actually time to eat it. Such younger children were always the ultimate stressor for my father. He could manage about 15 minutes of playful, “Oy! Who snatched my afikomen?” before launching into a heated halachic presentation on the repercussions if it was lost. We learned early to just stick to stealing my Uncle Bruce’s matzah. But the only thing worse than a young child not understanding the rules of hiding the afikomen are older kids not realizing it’s time to retire from the sport. Here’s a handy rule of thumb: If you’re old enough to buy the wine for daled kosos, you’re probably too old to get excited about stealing the afikomen. If you’re too old for afikomen but still want some negotiating leverage so your parents buy you a ping-pong table, it might make more sense to try hiding their credit card.
2. Meltdown Maidel
Chani has been sitting patiently waiting for her turn to read from volume four of her notes she had shipped back from seminary in several duffel bags on a cargo ship, since no airline felt comfortable flying with so much baggage. It may be hard to find her at the Seder table since she is obscured by the dozen or so tomes of notes she has piled up around her as she eagerly waits to participate. But watch out. If the baal haSeder rushes her (“Okay, why don’t you finish the rest at Shulchan Oreich”) or skips over her (“I didn’t realize you had a devar Torah on the opening “Kadeish Urchatz song!”) there will be a meltdown. No Seder is really complete until one participant projects the emotional intensity equivalent of a few Makkos. In our family, the preferred method of the meltdown is to sit absolutely silently while staring angrily — without blinking — at the one conducting the Seder. When you are asked, “I’m sorry, did you want to share something?” just curtly respond “It’s fine” as you sniffle into your Haggadah. There’s nothing wrong with crying at the Seder — it happens to the best of families. But please don’t be offended if someone wipes away your tears with some celery for karpas.
3. Kiruv Tryout
“It’s so great to have everyone together for Pesach,” the Seder leader opens up, and then very clearly turning to one person at the Seder table wearing an oversized satin kippah, shouts, “Pesach is Hebrew for Passover.” It’s always moving to open up your Seder table to family, friends, or coworkers who are not affiliated. But, please, play it cool. You don’t need to lock eyes with your less observant guests every time you share a Torah idea, as you not so subtly say, “Everyone here has a Jewish story.” Act natural and be helpful. And no need to translate unnecessarily — explaining the meaning of the word matzah once is more than enough. Don’t spend the entire evening asking him to “Please pass the box of the bread of affliction.”
4. Bubby’s Second Husband
We’re just happy that Bubby’s happy. Sure, her new husband tried to introduce new tunes that we have to politely hum along to. And, yeah, maybe he mentions one too many times how his minhagim differ at his own table — but we’re just happy that Bubby’s happy. What’s that now? You want us to call you Zeide? How about we compromise with Zeide, but we append your first name afterward so it’s more like our beloved uncle. Bubby, will that make you happy?
5. The Shiur Klali Guy
“Okay, everyone, take a look at the second source in the marei mekmomos sheets being passed around.” There are few things more challenging than the one person at every Seder who insists on sharing all his gilyonos to the Rambam’s Hilchos Chametz U’Matzah during the Seder. It’s usually the newly minted eidim at his shver’s Seder table for the first time. He’s not playing around. Nine Haggados and a notebook of unpublished shiurim from Brisk on Korban Pesach and no one is leaving until we get through them all. And watch out, he’s paying attention, too. Just finished sharing a sweet vort on Dayeinu, and he’s ready to respond with a brief, “tsk, not so muchrach.” Thanks, champ, but another “not so muchrach,” and you’ll be spending the second Seder locked in the guest bedroom with a Maxwell House Haggadah and a box of machine matzah. You can slip us your marei mekomos under the door.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 756)
Oops! We could not locate your form.