Sunday, March 25, 2012

Model Seder

Yes, you read that correctly.  Just like we  (well, some of us) had in Hebrew School, lo those many years ago. 

Last week the head of the Ulpan program in Modiin informed us that Rav David Lau, the Chief Rabbi of Modiin (son of the famous Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel Rav Yisrael Meir Lau) was coming to our Ulpan to have a "model seder" with all of us.  Personally, I thought it was a great idea.  I mean, we get to hear words of Torah from Rav Lau - pretty cool.

So today was the day - we all shuffled into the biggest Ulpan classroom and sure enough there were tables that reminded many of us of those days in Hebrew School - little plates of matza, hard boiled eggs, macaroons, cups of grape juice, the whole shabang.

But wow - this was not your father's model seder.

You see, many of the new immigrants in that room had never experienced a seder in their lives.  That Maxwell House haggadah that we all laugh about?  Some of the Ulpan students did not even know what the seder involved other than perhaps the four cups of wine.

I sat next to some women from Russia and France and helped them find their way through the Haggadah as Rav Lau spoke.  It was so moving to hear him speak about us, the new immigrants as the embodiment of "v'ga'alti" - that because of us the world is that much closer to the coming of Moshiach.  I know, I know, it sounds glorified and overly dramatic but you know what?  He's kinda right.  I mean, people coming back to Israel is part of the big picture and the people sitting in that room today were part of the return.  I was especially proud of the people from Russia, France, and other countries where anti-semitism is so rampant (you should hear their stories).  One man came from Uruguay for a wedding and decided to stay forever.  He said he couldn't imagine leaving now that he had found his true home.

Rav Lau is a warm, engaging personality and he is clearly a busy person, but for that few moments we were all his students.  It was very special.

So he slowly explained the seder itself, why we do it, what we say, and we all sang Mah Nishtana together - many people had never heard it before.  His Hebrew was clear enough so that even those in the first level could understand most of what he said. 

His emphasis was on the telling of the story - comparing what we were to what we are - and remembering that we are still surrounded by enemies that want to destroy us.

We all have been through the trials and tribulations of aliyah, some with more scars, some with less, but all with a great feeling of accomplishment. 

For those few minutes, in that room, we all felt pretty heroic.