Immigrants to Israel Don’t Regret Dropping Extra Passover Seder
Why do Diaspora Jews mutter to themselves while they’re dragging out the matzo balls for their return engagement at seder No. 2?
“You know what a mechayah (“pleasure” in Yiddish) is? That first Pesach here was a mechayah!” added Kamen’s fellow tour guide Allan Younger, in a distinctly Scottish brogue. Even 20-plus years later, the memories are still fresh.
“I can remember what it was like for the first time not having to start all over again and drag out the leftovers like we had to back in Scotland,” he adds. “The truth is, day-old tsimmis (an Ashkenazi stew made from carrots, dried fruit, vegetables, and meat) does not taste good.”
Baila Brown says she too will never forget her first seder as an Israeli citizen. She had made aliyah from Massachusetts and had just moved into her new apartment in Jerusalem. Waiting for her son to return so they could begin their seder, she stood in her courtyard listening to the children in the adjoining apartments singing the Four Questions. “It was such an amazing sound. I knew at that moment that I had arrived,” she says.
As for the second seder, Brown says that, as much as she was accustomed to it in the States, “It’s as if we don’t need it here… the one we do have is such a powerful telling of the story right here in the part of the world where it all happened.” And as those neighborhood children chanting the four questions illustrated, the seder “is a communal and shared experience here in a way it can’t be there,” she explains.
“And here you can really experience Passover as a spring holiday, something you don’t feel in New England where it’s still cold at that time of the year,” Brown says.
New York native and coauthor of “Doublelife - One Family, Two Faiths and a Journey of Hope,” Harold Berman also remembers the first Passover after he and his family arrived in Efrat five years ago. “The word that kept coming to mind was ‘natural,’” he recalls. “It seemed so natural to tell the story just once. Once you have experienced it, it stays with you. After all, in America, we never had Thanksgiving dinner two nights in row.”
By the way, visitors to Israel, unless they own property there, still need to keep the second day of the holiday even when the Israelis around them are throwing the bathing suits into the car and heading off for their vacations. Yes, that means the visitors need to hold a second seder, complete with seder plate, four cups of wine, and the reading of the Haggadah with as much respect and focus as the night before.
Maybe, after singing “Chad Gadya” and draining the fourth cup of wine at that second seder, these visitors will want to amend the traditional seder-ending promise of “Next year in Jerusalem” by adding “… this time as an Israeli citizen."