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Freedom, matzoh brei, and that little goat too

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03/08/2013

Freedom, matzoh brei, and that little goat too photo

Growing up, my friend and I—the youngest representatives from each of our families and tasked with singing Ma Nishtana ("The Four Questions") every Passover—would spend a good portion of the pre-Seder festivities each year practicing the song together. We loved the holiday and took our role in the seder seriously, striving to get the questions just right—and we would have just died of embarrassment if we messed up. In subsequent years, I have (eagerly) passed the torch of singing the song on to my young nephews. Then, my eldest nephew—who's "7 going on 70"—provides commentary on the questions and their answers in a style befitting Rashi or Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah, a famous young scholar from the haggadah.

As a child and as an adult, my role in the Seder has evolved, but my love for Pesach remains. And I'm certainly not alone. In my informal poll of Jewish friends and family, I have discovered that most members of the tribe I know name Pesach as their all-time favorite Jewish holiday. In fact, it's the most widely celebrated holiday on the Jewish calendar. Chances are—no matter where you fall on the observance spectrum—come the evening of March 25, you'll find your way to a Seder, whether you live in Chicago, Jerusalem, or any other locale in the world. In that spirit, I give you my top 10 reasons to love the popular holiday.

1) On Pesach…we tell the story. We read the same story year after year from the Haggadah, and we learn something new every time we tell it.

2) On Pesach…we put life in perspective and appreciate all the good things we have. Just as we were once slaves, we remember that many people around the world still are not free.

3) On Pesach…we are commanded to drink four cups of wine. It wouldn't be right not to.

4) On Pesach…we stay home. Home is the focal point of the holiday. For most Jewish holidays, we observe the holiday in synagogue, but this time we recline and gather for Seder night in the comfort of Jewish homes all over the world.

5) On Pesach…we recognize that spring's on its way—maybe. In Chicago, it might feel like winter still—especially since Pesach arrives so early this year--but we know warmer temperatures, melting snow, and chirping blue jays are all just around the corner.

6) On Pesach…we rock good tunes. Who doesn't love the song about the four sons, a rousing rendition of Dayenu, or the one about that little goat?

7) On Pesach…no two Seders are exactly alike. They're kind of like snowflakes that way. In the course of my life, I've gotten to attend many different Seders, longer Seders that end in the wee hours of the night.; a Sephardic Seder where—in addition to matzoh and horseradish, we ate figs and dates; Maxwell House Seders, social justice Seders, chocolate Seders, and Seders where an orange occupies a prominent place on the Seder plate. They're all different, all special.

8) On Pesach…we let all who are hungry come and eat. This is a holiday where we open our homes to family, friends, and wandering Jews without a place to go.

9) On Pesach…matzoh brei flows like the Nile River. I love eating matzoh brei for eight days straight. And then, on the ninth day, when cornflakes and toast have returned to the menu, I've had my fill and I can't fry another morsel of brei.

10) On Pesach…we rejoice in our freedom. Once we were slaves, but now we are free…L'shanah haba'ah b'yerushalayim! (Next year in Jerusalem!)

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