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‘Seder Stories’ by Nancy Rips may prompt good conversation at your seder

March 19, 2010 2 comments

By Joel A. Moskowitz, MD

LA JOLLA, California — In anticipation of spending a Seder with our daughter and her family, I chanced upon  a book that describes how one hundred and one famous and not so famous persons recall their experience on Pesach.  

Nancy Rips, a book commentator, has gathered a small volume, of 191 pages produced (Hardbound) by Cumberland Press of Nashville, Tennessee. 

Included are the memories of Alan Dershowitz, Rosanne Barr, Milton Berle, Rabbi Harold  Kushner and Elie Wiesel and many others whose names are unfamiliar to me.  The reflections are about food, family and freedom.  Some remarks are ‘straight’ and, to this reader, dull.   Others are witty, clever and informative.  Berle’s comment: “Jews work hard all year and comes to Passover, there is not a piece of bread in the house!”  Of the indication that your Seder is too crowded is that you make Elijah’s cup of wine ‘to go’. 

Sage remarks attributed to Albert Einstein “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

How author Rips compiled these witticisms is not clear.  There is no bibliography. This work would not pass academic muster.  Yet it is charming, stimulating and may be thought provoking. 

My personal experience of  Seders has changed over the years. There was the obsessive unmusical readings of my father who wouldn’t miss any word (and was totally unfamiliar with the translation) but his verve generated a respect and intention to continue the observance for future generations. Later in life, there was our pilgrimage to the Seder of  Rabbi Goodblatt in Bakersfield who hosted a  diverse group of non-Jews, Nuns, Probation Officers, politicians as he illuminated the Haggadah with his extensive knowledge of Biblical history. 

Nancy Rip’s devotes chapters to coping with the dysfunctional family at the Seder (is there any other?), or the plight of the single girl, unattached, at a tribe of married relatives, many with children.  Noteably absent is any reference to that significant Israelite whose actions led to the reason we can and do celebrate our exodus from Egypt.  “Seder Stories” is curiously like the Haggadah devoid of any mention of Moses!

I might suggest that this omission might be a topic for a lively Seder.

This doctor recommends “Seder Stories” to avoid ritualistically matzoh like dry Sederim.

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Moskowitz is a freelance writer based in La Jolla