Over the years, a number of wonderful traditions have been established at Great Oak: the GO anniversary/Valentine’s party, July fireworks, late summer bonfires, and what has become my personal favorite — the Great Oak Seder. I no longer remember what inspired Rachel, Tom and me to organize the first one, but it was such a fun event that we’ve done it every year since.The first seder was a relatively simple affair on some levels — although Rachel, Tom, Bonnie (Rachel’s mom) and I did much of the cooking, other GO’ers volunteered to make some of the traditional dishes. As many had never had these foods, let alone cooked them (or shopped for ingredients that were kosher for Passover), it was quite the learning experience!
The evening began with an introduction to a key Passover ritual — the reading of the Haggadah. In a moment of insane inspiration, Rachel, Tom and I decided at the semi-last minute to write our own haggadah. Interweaving English and Hebrew, prose, poetry, songs, and (amazingly) a brief play, the Great Oak Haggadah (and its musical supplement) was the first introduction many had to the Passover story and to a second key Passover ritual — eagerly eyeing the food while becoming overcome by the sinking feeling that it would be hours before one would actually eat.
Thinking back to that first year, I’m somewhat amazed that we ever decided to do it again. But we have! And, for reasons that aren’t quite clear to me, things have gotten more elaborate each year. (And more and more people participate — we had 91 attendees this year!)
Over time, our Haggadah has become more polished (well, at least I’d like to think so!). My annual revision process (writing parts of the text and integrating pieces from a wide range of published and unpublished sources) has deepened my own awareness of the meaning of this holiday. I think, too, that varying the text has served to keep folks more interested — there’s usually at least 2 sections that have been substantially revised.
And, in keeping with the Jewish tradition that we should continue to find new meaning in the story of Passover, we try to bring the story alive in new ways. This year, through the combined efforts of a lot of folks, we did a musical puppet show. It was a crazy amount of work but I think it was well worth it — adults and kids all seemed to enjoy it a lot.
Friends are gathered round, tonight we’ll stay up later
Because there is no greater than the Great Oak Seder