Growing up in New Jersey in the mid-70s and 80s, Passover in my house was one of the only remaining Jewish holidays done with some semblance of reverence and tradition.
Celebrated by the simultaneous arrival of two dozen relatives (most of whom I'd hadn't seen since the last Passover), the Seder, ran by my father, usually only lasted an hour or two; but for two-plus decades of my life, these informational-yet-boring two hours, where you ate "mud" and tasted "tears" were where my sister and I learned exactly what it meant for the Jews to be slaves in Egypt. That, and six agonizing years of Hebrew school.
Socially, my parents were always lot of fun to be around, but come the start of the Seder, suddenly, my dad, who would only set foot in a temple once or twice a year for a few hours for my benefit, turned into the second coming of Charlton Heston.
There were very few jokes cracked at our Seder table. Most of the time was spent solemnly singing, reading and answering the questions my father would ask us.
"Do you know what the bitter herbs represent, kids? What about the haroseth? Can anyone name all 10 plagues?"
If anyone got out of line, my dad or grandfather would just give you that look that said "Do you want to live past tomorrow?" and things returned to order.
Perhaps no movie does a better job of portraying the decay of the "American Family" than Avalon. Director Barry Levinson's film, about a family of Jewish immigrants whose rise to wealth and comfort sees them sacrifice their close-knit ties to family for a better life in the suburbs, puts the blame squarely on the invention of television.
Well, if a single, black-and-white 13-inch television was able to annihilate the socio-political structure of the family unit then, imagine what laptops, tablets, smart phones, texting and social media will do to what's left?
Tonight, my sister Stephanie and her husband Michael did a terrific job of keeping the ritual of Passover alive, both for the memory of our grandparents, as well as for their two boys. They hosted the same gathering of 20 -- except, due to the fact all our relatives have either died or moved to Florida, this time, it was a room of close friends. #ch-ch-changes.
As my brother-in-law's not Jewish, my sister asked me to do the honor of running the Seder. Now, for the first time, I understand what my father must have gone through, times 10.
Have you ever tried to keep a half-dozen kids -- let alone 20 adults, all with advanced adult A.D.D. brought on by the use of social media -- quiet? It's practically impossible. Not to mention, I, myself, am guilty of stopping the proceeds at least three times in the first 10 minutes in order to post a funny observation to Facebook.
Almost immediately it became clear this was not going to be my father's Seder.
Aside from my own joke of starting late because I had to "Let My Pee-Pee Go," there were at least five, separate conversations going on as the Seder progressed, not to mention my minute-by-minute Facebook posting, thus, the decision was quickly made by my exasperated sister to do a "tag team" Seder. #adderall
A few of us read, a few of us sang. There was even a moment, for about a minute, in which everyone got quiet so as to hear the youngest recite the Four Questions. But, that too, quickly morphed into what sounded like a drunken sailor sing-along, as every grown-up at the table had gone to a different temple and learned to sing them a different way.
As the evening went on, for the 15 minutes our Seder lasted, I began to wonder what a modern day, social-media influenced Haggadah (the book that sets the order of the Seder) might look like if it was printed today.
Here are a few excerpts:
(If you're not Jewish, ask your accountant to explain it to you.)
The History Channel Proudly Presents: The Story of Passover
(Like us on Facebook)
"The story of Passover begins with the @Jews who were slaves to @Ramesses2 in Egypt in 1300 B.T.E. (Before Twitter Existed) #HistoryChannelMondays"
"One day, @Moses tweeted @Ramesses2 'LMPG and KMFA.' To which, @Ramesses2 replied:
'@Moses - LMAO!'"
One week later:
(Foursquare - Moses just checked in to The Red Sea.)
1. The Kardashian Family
2. Michele Bachmann
3. Rick Perry
4-8. The National Security Agency
9. The Supreme Court
10. Death of the First Born Amendment
The 4 Questions:
Q. Why is this night different from all other nights?
A. Because on this night, it is a Jewish holiday and, thus, all alternate side of the street parking is suspended. #311
The Bitter Herbs
Hailing from the streets of Williamsburg, this Brooklyn-based four piece's first full-length release, "Mazel-Tov Cocktail" proves they are no flash-in-the-pan. If you dig the sounds of Television, Mott the Hoople and Green Day, you'll have no trouble getting into this one. If you have trouble finding it online just 'Kugel it.' www.bitterherbsband.com
"Had He brought us out of Egypt, it would have been enough."
"Had He slain their first born, it would have been enough."
"Had He split the sea for us, it would have been enough."
"Had He given me a beach house in the Hamptons with less square-footage than the one that a-hole Ira Goldberg has, I would've converted to Catholicism."
I wonder what my little nephews will pass on to their kids? Perhaps, by the time they have kids, they won't even know what Passover is, and it will just be "passed over."
Follow David Fagin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/nikchapman