Chag HaPesach celebrates the birth of our nation, and it may offer us the key to its continued survival. The korban Pesach, the first sacrifice offered as a nation, underscores the need to create and nurture close familial relationships. Faith exists in the intellectual realm, but it comes alive in community, when families unite around common causes. Perhaps that is why one of the most important things families can do on Pesach night, both when the actual korban Pesach was offered as well as in our contemporary model of Pesach seder, is come together.
Mendy Pellin is a well-known Jewish personality. He is a chasid of Chabad and he is a humorist, who blends chasidishe spirituality with out-of-the-box humor. On one occasion, someone asked him what was his most memorable and favorite Seder. Mendy replied by recounting a true story that happened to him and his family in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, when he was just eight years old. He relates as follows:
As was often the case, my father was running late to shul the first night of Pesach. On the way to shul, we made a stop at the Union Street Mikvah for a quick pre-holiday dip. Actually, in my family there was no such thing as quick.
One of my brothers wanted to break his record and immerse 101 times in the holy water. I took forever to get dressed after my dip. My oldest brother didn’t have time to wait and went ahead to 770 to be on time (relatively) for davening. By the time the rest of us were ready to go, we were the last ones in the mikvah.
That’s when we realized that we were locked inside the mikvah! The management must have thought it was empty and locked it from the outside as they were leaving. We heard people walking outside. Some were already walking home from shul to their Pesach Sedarim and we started banging on the door. Unfortunately for us, no one heard.
My brother, Yaakov, decided to try out his karate aspirations on the mikvah door. He ran up, did a jump kick and flew backward – hitting the light switch on the wall opposite the door. Even his great karate kick was no match for a New York deadbolt mikvah door. The problem was that now, not only were we stranded inside a hot and sweaty bathhouse – we were also in the pitch dark!
My father didn’t panic. He figured my brother Levi would eventually connect the dots and realize that we had never made it out of the mikvah. Then, he would come check on us, and we would be – like the ancient Jews in Egypt – redeemed!
Well, it didn’t happen quite like that. A few hours passed. Most people on the outside were unlocking their doors for Eliyahu HaNavi. But we were sitting in a dark, chlorine-filled, dressing room having... the best Seder of my life.
It was as though nothing in the world existed but us. We had no distractions. No comfortable couches yelling for us to escape the endless passages in the Haggadah. No guests chewing up our parents’ attention. That night, locked inside a small, enclosed room, we were truly free. Free to share stories with each other. Free to sing songs. Free to tell jokes. Free to talk about the story of Pesach. Free to laugh at our situation. It was a true “z’man cheiruseinu”!
My father didn’t preach faith that night in the mikvah. He showed us faith. Faith that everything happens for a reason. Faith to know that there will always be light no matter the dark situation we are in. Faith in ourselves to find freedom within.
My brother Levi eventually found us and went to the home of the individual who worked in the shul to get the keys. We went home to find a very concerned mother and starving guests. That’s when we began the traditional Seder.
Funny, I don’t remember a thing about that one.
This Pesach, don’t forget what it’s all about. That’s the only way for your kids not to forget either. ( www.COLlive.com )