I have been planning a trip to Israel, to visit my son and daughter-in-law and their children, for months. The experience was very interesting, as I have never experienced an orthodox Jewish Passover. I arrived about two weeks before the first seder, and assisted with the preparation for Passover during my visit.
If you live in Israel, you have only one seder. Since I live in the U.S., my son had another seder just for me.
Following my arrival to my son’s home, I helped with the Passover preparation. This entailed a lot of house cleaning. Everything is wiped in the house, to rid the home of chumitz (non-Passover food or crumbs).
One day, I watched my grandchildren outside in a park while my son and daughter-in-law bought and pre-ordered many things and groceries for Passover in an outside market. Another day, they bought even more groceries in a supermarket.
Everything has to be changed over for Passover. For example, there is a special Passover toaster oven that replaces the toaster oven used throughout the year. The refrigerator is cleaned very thoroughly, Passover plates replace dishes that are used all-year…all in the effort to ensure there is no exposure to chumitz.
Like many other Hasidic families, my son has a contract with a non-Jewish neighbor to sell any chumitz that might be left in the house. The understanding is if the non-Passover pots and pans are left in the house and a crumb was left on them, then the non-Jew temporarily owns the pots and pans. Still, this person never goes and collects the pots or dishes.
Some of the kitchen pieces are brought to a mikvah (a small pool of water from the rain) to be spiritually cleansed.
The night before Passover my son wrapped 10 pieces of crackers with aluminum foil. My grandchildren and I proceeded to hide the pieces around the house. I made a list where they were. Then, in the dark, my son carried a light and a feather to search for the hidden chumutz. The children were delighted to watch their father play this game.
The next day, throughout the Hasidic community, any chumutz still left was brought outside, where it could be burned in a metal garbage can.
The Passover seder was also on Shabbat (Friday night). We all got dressed-up and had the house in order. My daughter-in-law and I lit candles for Shabbat. We all waited for my son to come back from synagogue to begin the seder. We ate special hand-made matzo. In Hasdic tradition, we never wet matzo during Passover. We did the blessing over the matzo. Dipped it in salt on the table, but never got it wet or cooked with it. The 3 matzos for the Seder are put in a special, pretty covering. My 3 ½ year old granddaughter stood-up and asked the 4 questions in Yiddish, which she learned at her Yiddish nursery school. We had to eat a lot of matzo during the Seder. We ate different courses for dinner. The children went to sleep, but we continued the Seder to the end. My son sat with me and assisted me during the second Seder, which was just for me.
We talked a lot about the meanings of the words in the Haggadah. I have been to many Seders, just reading the words in English and not understanding a lot of the concepts. My son explained to me a lot of the ideas from the words. I found these Seders to be very interesting and a great learning experience.
Shalom, Susan Weiss