The Lessons of a Stained Haggadah

Mar 29th, 2011 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Relationships
“Certainly one cannot read this poem without effort. The page is often corrupt and mud-stained, and torn and stuck together with faded leaves, with scraps of verbena or geranium. One must put aside antipathies and jealousies and not interrupt. One must have patience and infinite care and let the light sound, whether of spiders’ delicate feet on a leaf or the chuckle of water in some irrelevant drainpipe, unfold too.”

“The Waves,” Virginia Woolf, 1931


Reminds me of the Seder!

When we set the table for the Seder, we would place a huge comfortable chair for my grandfather zt”l in front of his own table as the top of a T, placed against the table around which the rest of us would sit.  Why did he need his own table? He wanted us to gather his hundreds of commentaries on the Haggadah and pile them on his table for him NOT to use!

“Why does Zaidy not look at his Haggadahs if they’re in front of him?”

“I want you to see that I’m more interested in what my grandchildren will say than I am in what is in all these Haggadahs!”

You may not know, but Weinbergs are opinionated! (Shocking, I know!) Each of us had our own ideas, and had to practice patience in front of our grandfather, not interrupt, and listen carefully to what everyone had to say (yes, even That sister!) because our Zaidy would often ask us to repeat what someone else said.

The Seder became an exercise in self-control, patience, and listening with respect.

I decided that I would emulate my grandfather and use the same simple Maxwell House Haggadah every year. No commentaries. Its pages are stained with wine and filled with bits and pieces of Marror and Matzah crumbs. I look at my simple Haggadah and remember my grandfather’s lesson of listening to what everyone else has to say.

The Seder becomes an exercise in listening; or, as my grandfather would say: “How does the parent know which of the Four Sons is asking? By listening.

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