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A St. Louis-style seder?

April 14, 2019

Have you followed the #bagelgate scandal? At 6:03 p.m. March 25, Alek Krautmann (@alekKrautman) from St. Louis, tweeted a photo captioned, “Today I introduced my coworkers to the St Louis secret of ordering bagels bread sliced. It was a hit!”

Oy vey! Twitter erupted with protest! Bread-sliced bagels? It’s a shanda for the goyim!

I think that in protest we should all give up bagels for nine days. Let’s do it April 19-27. Are you in?

Truth is, what’s so terrible about slicing bagels like bread? The bagel has come so far along, why not take it one step further? Well, no, there’s just certain things you don’t do to a bagel, at some point it’s not a bagel anymore.

So how about a St. Louis-style Seder?

On Friday, hundreds of thousands of Jews around the world will be sitting down to a Passover Seder celebrating our freedom from slavery 3,331 years ago.

Seder means order. There are 15 steps to this “order,” which has been arranged in its current format some 2,500 years ago. They include drinking four cups of wine or grape juice, dipping in salt water, breaking bread, er matzah, retelling the story of slavery and freedom, asking four questions, eating a meal, setting a Seder plate with the specific ritual foods and, of course, Uncle Max falling asleep in his soup.

The Seder has definitely evolved since the first Seder in Egypt. Even the famous, universal, four questions (Why do we dip? Why do we eat matzah? Why do we eat bitter herbs? And why do we recline?) have been downsized from five after we no longer ate the roasted lamb Passover night.

But amazingly, the format of the Seder and the Haggadah is pretty universal in structure once it was formalized in the time of the second temple.

True, the text in the Haggadah is supposed to be used as a springboard for unscripted, further discussion, but we don’t mess with the actual original text. This is what unites us as a people! As a family. As one.

So what are some of the fundamentals of the Seder? Here’s a partial list:

It has to take place the night of Passover (this year, April 19-20).

It cannot begin before nightfall. Sure we can enjoy some food before the Seder (as we do at our community Seder, which begins at 6:45 p.m.). But the Seder itself should not start before 8:07 p.m.

It’s got to be of kosher for Passover food.

We should eat at least 1 ounce of matzah itself (no spreads, no salt) within seven minutes. Preferably, the handmade, shmurah matzah.

We drink four cups of wine (each containing at least 3.5 ounces).

We should try to experience our own freedom from slavery.

We tell the story to our children, our friends and to ourselves.

It’s tempting to start and finish the Seder early, but what’s the rush? Its takes some time to experience true freedom. We have family and friends to connect with. We have 3,331 years of Jewish history to recall and experience!

The kids? They would love to stay up late and celebrate. They would love to experience some freedom two nights a year, with no bedtime. Let’s give them that memorable experience with a full, traditional Seder and Passover. They will thank us for those memorable late nights.

Wishing you and yours a very happy and kosher Passover, may we all experience true freedom from all the challenges that surround us.

Please join us for an incredible community, family Seder at the Jewish Center, Friday, April 19. Visit www.santafejcc.com/seder or call 505-983-2000 to reserve your seat.

Rabbi Berel Levertov is director of the Santa Fe Jewish Center-Chabad.