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Encyclopedic Seder

(by Margie Goldsmith)

The only Passover seder of my childhood was based on what my parents read in the Encyclopedia Britannica. They were both Jewish, but had no religious education or celebration of religious holidays when they were growing up. My mother must have experienced some regret about that loss of heritage because, when I was ten, she sent my sisters and me to classes at a local synagogue where the teacher encouraged having the ritual feast that takes place on the first night of the holiday.

It was, and is, an occasion that tests the limited patience of children—full of symbolic rituals that tell the story of the Exodus from slavery in Egypt, like bitter herbs and roasted shank bones (ours was a rib-eye from the butcher that became a chew-toy for our dog Jason). The youngest child in the family is supposed to ask four questions about the meal.