Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Deja Mi Gente Ir*

Steve would usually be the next author of the blog post (we tend to switch off), but I won this game of rock-paper-scissors. 

Last night, we attended a 400+ person Passover Seder in Barcelona (read: PaTHover THeder in BarTHelona) courtesy of Jabad Lubuvitch de Barcelona.  This was a unique experience as it was the first Passover I have ever spent away from my family, but also, we passed a Gaudi building or two en route to the Seder.  

We dressed (read: wrinkled shirt and tired dress) and gussied up (read: flossed and wiped the dust off my sandals) the best that two travelers could and arrived in plenty of time for the 8:30 start of the Seder.  We've found time to be somewhat relative here, or maybe it's just the world outside of S & S's fanaticism with timeliness - so the seder didn't get rolling until about 9:30 when the rabbi finally invited us (in Catalan) to pour the wine.  We were seated at the "kids" table, which essentially consisted of a lot of undergrads on semesters abroad and us (the old folks). 

It was an emotionally-charged evening as I realized how apprehensive I was going into the Seder.  Pangs of homesickness had been hitting me throughout the day, but nothing a little kosher wine (ahem), matzoh, and raucous singing en masse couldn't help.  My family has its traditions (new and old) that I've come to cherish as givens every year of my life.  Chabad seders are hardly like those that unfold annually in the Wolfman household (for instance, our use of brightly-coloured and party store "props" for the 10 Plagues didn't appear at the Seder last night - I wonder why), but it was all the more reason to enter open-minded and ready for a new experience rather than staunchly insisting on the same thing year after year.  Make no mistake, I did send a list home of some reminders just in case someone in the family happened to forget one thing that we've been doing for 30+ years.

The rabbi was impressive in his ability to maintain his microphone-less projection throughout the evening (I repeat: nothing a little kosher wine couldn't help) and our table of commentators and strangers helped to make the evening a joy.  Aside from the somewhat familiar tunes and food, we didn't understand a word.  Steve's understanding of the language helped to make the evening a light-hearted adventure, stringly together translations such as "the matzoh represents the unleavened bread that the Jews in Egypt took with them and then the giraffe ate the pinapple while going for a swim." 

In between courses, glasses of wine, and songs, it was a treat to chat with young Americans and Canadians, hearing about their experiences abroad, university majors, and life across the Atlantic Sea.  Though we were clearly the oldest (and, uh, squarest) of the bunch, we even got an invitation for an absynthe crawl after wrapping up the Seder (which we politely declined opting for a late bedtime in our twin beds). 

All told, it was nice to realize firsthand that Jews around the world have been holding seders for thousands of years, and whether you're in Barcelona, Vancouver, or Kathmandu, the sentiments are the same. 

Though the rabbi didn't lead the room in a 400-person rendition of "Go down, Moses," Steve and I were singing it aloud, arm-in-arm on the Passeig de Gracia at 1:00am when the Seder finally let out...trying to hail a cab because we'd stayed out after the metro closed:

*When Israel was in Egypt's land, deja mi gente ir (let my people go)!
Oppressed so hard they could not stand, deja mi gente ir (let my people go)!
Go down, Moses,
Way down in Egypt's land,
Tell ol' Pharoah,  
Deja mi gente ir!



  1. Chag Sameach! It's sort of amazing to think that people all over the world are performing the same ceremonies...