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       Shabbat and the Jewish Holidays




Aide memoire for the Seder of Passover : The Hamburg Hagaddah, 1731
Creator: Ya'akov ben Yehuda Leyb, Sofer, Scribe
1 leaf, ink on vellum
Courtesy of the New York Public Library
Humanities and Social Sciences Library / Dorot Jewish Division


The Seder

Pesach in a Small Canadian Town

From Alex Mogelon of Fort William and Port Arthur, Ontario, Canada. Source: "Jews in Small Towns: Legends and Legacies," by Howard V. Epstein, Ph.D.

"Passover was 'big' in our family's life...The first sign of Passover's coming was my father and mother testing the wine they were brewing and bottling in the basement. It was the only time in the yea when they acted like adolescents. The wine-tasting made them both, as they say, bafufkit, a Canadian colloquialism for tipsy. A more serious exercise was the house cleaning the week before the first seder. It was rigorous and unrelenting. Every nook, cranny, and corner had to be emptied, scrubbed, polished, and restored to its glittering glory. The house smelled of overdoses of wax and furniture polish for days.

The ceremony itself was long and thorough. Sometimes my grandfather (my mother's father) would come from Winnipeg to celebrate with us and stay for several months. His name was Chasen meaning chazan (cantor), but sadly, unlike his father and grandfather who were members of that profession, fate had given him a very squeaky and, at times, grating voice. He, in turn, thought his chanting to be of outstanding lyrical quality and in Shul on Saturdays (if he was not called upon to guest daven for the oylem), he would station himself at the back of the synagogue and follow the designated chazan for the day, with his own cantorial version of praying aloud, not accompanying the real chazan at the bimah up front, but coming after him by about five to ten seconds, as if to say, 'This is how it really should be chanted.' It took me a long time to learn not to be embarrassed by the jibes and icy looks thrown at him, which he seemed not to hear or see.

 But, as I said, Passover was 'big' at our house. my father would repeat every word, and we three kids would sing along from the Mah Nishtanah to the Chad Gadya with our shrill, thin voices. There was neither harmony nor talent there, just enthusiasm at being part of a tradition that made us a family."  next ►►

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