Seder Table

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My First Chassidic Passover Seder 

 After moving to Long Island my wife Donna and I spent years trying to find the right “place” for us and our children. We went to a reformed synagogue, where we saw a Rabbi who didn’t wear a yarmulke and a woman Cantor playing the guitar on shabbos. Even with my limited knowledge of Judaism, I knew this wasn’t right. Next we tried a conservative approach; as the time was drawing near for our children’s Bar and Bat-Mitzvahs we decided to settle in there and continue their education. Although we were there for several years we never felt like we belonged. The Rabbi appeared aloof and unconcerned and the congregation was extremely cliquish. If you were not part of right group, you were ignored or worse, shunned. There was no reason to continue going to synagogue after the kids were Bat and Bar-Mitzvah’d as we were never made to feel welcome in our conservative temple. It was towards the end of our stay there that I was introduced to Rabbi Vaisfiche. 

Rabbi Asher Vaisfiche is the director of Chabad of Huntington. I met him when a friend needed me to help make a minion for his father’s yahrzeit. The Rabbi had arranged everything, asking members of his congregation to help make the minion. I was afraid I wouldn’t be welcomed as I really couldn’t read Hebrew and never even attended an evening service before. To my surprise, not only was I made to feel welcome but I was made to feel that being “Judaism challenged” was not bad at all. I later learned the Chabad philosophy which says there is no distinction between reformed, conservative and orthodox Jews. There are only two kinds of Jews, those Jews who are learning about Yiddishkeit and those Jews who are not. No matter what, we are all Jews. It was because of this inclusionary philosophy of Chabad that made me feel welcome, important and part of the greater Jewish nation. When Rabbi Vaisfiche asked me and my wife to join him and his family at the Passover Seder, even remembering my childhood fears of an everlasting and incomprehensible service, I happily accepted.

When I arrived at his house on the first night of Passover, there were many other people there too. Other than the Rabbi’s family, they were all new to me. People from other areas of Long Island, looking for a Seder to attend went to the Chabad of Huntington website and requested seating at the Seder. We all sat down together as strangers; men, women and children. This Seder was by far the most amazing event I have ever attended and not what I expected at all. We all took turns reading from the Haggadah. Some, who could, read in Hebrew, others like me read in English. Everything was explained either in Biblical terms or with amazing Hassidic insights. Rabbi Vaisfiche even took us back some 3000 years ago to tell us in fine detail, what celebrating Passover was like at the time of the first Holy Temple. His description made you feel as if you, yourself were waiting in line in the courtyard of the Temple to give the Kohanim your Pesach sacrifice. The whole event lasted about 4 hours. This included all the wonderfully detailed explanations, children slowly but excitedly reading their portions of the Haggadah, the singing of joyous songs, the mandatory drinking of 4 full cups of wine (I wish I knew about that part a long time ago), the eating of all that Shmurah (hand made) matzah and of course, the delicious festive meal.

Then the fantastic evening was over, ending all too soon it seemed. And although we all sat down as strangers, we arose from the Seder table as friends.   Having together, performed all the mitzvoth, read all the blessings and recounted our departure from Egypt as our family of Jews have done every Passover for thousands of years.

P.S. I went to my sister-in law’s house for the second night of Passover. They were expecting to do one of our “express” Seders. Not this night. This night was not only different from all other nights; it was for us, different from all other Passover Seders. As soon as we began, I started repeating the wonderful commentaries, stories and insights that were told to me by Rabbi Vaisfiche. All present were riveted to the explanations and enjoyed them so much that for the first time in family history, we went through the entire Haggadah.

When we finished, one of the participants came over to me and half jokingly asked “You going Orthodox on us?” to which I replied  

 “I am…learning”. 

Dr. Jonathan Abraham Kirell 

Click Here to Register For The Passover Seder with Melville Chabad