By AMANDA GREENE
The first night Passover seder at Chabad of Wilmington Friday started about 9 p.m. and stretched into the wee hours of Saturday morning.
But it was a light-hearted night for the 50 attendees at the center’s Orthodox community seder commemorating the Jewish exodus out of Egypt after escaping God’s 10 plagues on the Egyptians. Per Jewish tradition, photos were not allowed during the seder.
Chabad’s gathering was just one of several community seders around the Cape Fear region this weekend.
Each place at the U-shaped set of tables inside Chabad’s worship area had blue, green or red goodie bags with parts of a seder – lettuce, round matzah (the unleavened bread symbolic of Jewish affliction as well as freedom) and a Haggadah (the book guiding participants through the seder). Bottles of wine, water and grape juice lined the tables for the four cups that should be drunk during the seder.
“Wow, I’ve never seen this done before,” said one attendee holding up the individually bagged lettuce and matzah. “We practice safe seders!”
Chabad Rabbi Moshe Lieblich led the seder, asking his two young sons and another boy to recite a portion of the seder in Hebrew.
“If we had not left Egypt, we would have still been Egyptians, and we would have been part of the uprisings there last summer,” the rabbi said, referring to the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011.
Each time a glass of wine was drunk, each participant leaned to the left “to symbolize freedom and power,” Lieblich said.
Between seder parts, participants washed their hands in a ceremonial basin. They splashed water from a silver chalice three times over each hand up to the wrist.
Lieblich discussed the meaning of the four children in the seder: the wise child, wicked child, simple child and the child who doesn’t know how to ask.
“Of course, in Chabad, we say there is also a fifth child, the child who doesn’t show up to the table,” he added, “but it is incumbent to us to bring him back to the table.”
As each participant read a portion of the Haggadah, the rabbi asked visitors’ names. Some people drove from an hour away to attend the seder for the first time.
Wilmington resident Peyton Jones brought his family to the seder to expose his daughter’s boyfriend to his first Jewish seder. Jones, who is Christian, said he was also learning so he could lead his family’s seder Saturday night (April 7) to honor his wife, who is Jewish.
“I don’t know what I’m doing so it’s nice for a non-Jew to experience it among Jews,” he said.
When it came time to break the matzah, the rabbi explained there would
be no hiding of the Afikomen, a small portion of matzah sometimes hidden by Jewish children in exchange for a prize from their parents.
“Chabad doesn’t have the custom of hiding the Afikomen,” Lieblich said, “because we don’t want our kids to learn to take things from their families.”
Wilmington resident Paul Sternlieb said experiencing the seder was “a nice tradition. It’s a good reminder of the enslavement and then escaping Egypt.”
Lieblich said all Jews at the Friday night seder are linked to the Jews who crossed the parted waters of the Red Sea with Moses.
“Ultimately, we all have the same source, the same essence,” he said. “Every generation we must remember God did not just redeem them but he redeemed us, too.”