By Ginny Bender
Sammy Levy had a problem.
Passover was drawing near and although he always complained about having to
read the 4 questions at the Passover Seder, secretly Sammy coveted that very
It seemed this year his honored place in the family was to be replaced by a
To make matters worse HE, SAMMY, was always the one to go look for and find
the Afikomen, which meant a cash prize.
Abba always gave him five dollars but Grandpa was unpredictable as well as
Every year Abba put the Afikomen in the same place. The drawer in the
buffet side table in the dining room had been the hiding place ever since Sammy
was a tot. But what if Abba changed this year now that they were having
visitors? What if Sammy actually had to look for the Matzah that was broken in
half and then carefully wrapped inside the napkin so that it wouldn’t crumble?
Emma and Abba had invited Abba’s cousins from Ohio to visit. Abba hadn’t
seen his cousin Dina and her family in a long time and thought that Passover
was a wonderful holiday for them to all get together.
Abba called his cousin and next thing Sammy knew the long lost cousins, who
Sammy had never met, had decided to visit the Levy’s in New York City and
were staying with them for the first two Seders.
The problem was that Sammy learned Cousin Dina and her husband Nathan had a
daughter, Leah, a year younger than Sammy. And at 8 she could read the 4
questions without any difficulty or assist from Sammy. There was no getting
around it; Sammy would be replaced as the youngest.
That also brought up the possibility that Leah would find the Afikomen.
Sammy was not happy.
Sammy managed to put Passover out of his mind until just before the holiday
when his Emma asked him to help her prepare the apartment.
As they changed the dishes and food to get rid of any chametz, Sammy couldn’t
help think about his not being the youngest anymore.
He knew the day would come but did it have to be this year? He was saving up
for a new game boy and now it would take him forever doing errands and
putting away his allowance to be able to have enough money to purchase the game he
Chanukah and his birthday were too far away by then he would probably want
“When Dina, Nathan and Leah come you are to be very nice to your new
cousins. Sammy you will have to sleep in a sleeping bag in our room so Leah can use
your bed.” Sammy's mother instructed.
“Oh, Emma, why can’t Leah sleep in a sleeping bag?" Sammy replied, distress
in his voice.
As soon as the words came out of his mouth he knew he had made a mistake.
Even to himself he sounded spoiled and whiney. Emma was going to give him a
“It’s only for two nights. Where is your sudakah? Haven’t we taught you to
be caring and giving?”
“I’m sorry,” Sammy said, feeling ashamed at his pettiness.
Everyday he saw homeless people in the streets. He should be grateful for
all they had. Where was his tzudakah - his charity?
The night before Passover Sammy searched for hametz. There was to be no
unleavened bread or yeast to be found anywhere.
The next day Emma made her famous matzah ball chicken soup. The smell
drifted through their apartment like an exotic fragrance.
With the matzah kugals, tzimmes and brisket cooking Emma went about setting
Abba and Sammy helped make the charoses. It was Sammy’s job to mix the wine,
sugar and cinnamon, nuts, and chopped apples together in the bowl.
By three o’clock the table was set and looked beautiful.
The table was different on Passover than any other time. With the Seder
Plate, the covered matzahs (Sammy had made the cover at Hebrew School from one
of Abba’s handkerchiefs), and the silver embossed wine goblet for Elijah
this holiday was very special.
The first to arrive was Grandpa and Grandma, and then came Uncle Leon and
his wife Sheila with their twin sons Joshua and Jonathan who were in high
Finally the new cousins arrived. To Sammy’s surprise Leah gave him a big
smile, hug and kiss. Leah was very pretty…with long, thick, black hair tied
neatly down her back by a red bow. Her dark eyes flashed at him and she talked
“I can’t believe we are finally here.” She exclaimed. “What a trip. We hit
all kinds of traffic from the airport. I thought the taxi cab driver was
going to get us killed. You have such a nice apartment. Sammy tomorrow you will
have to take me to Central Park and Broadway. I am so excited that we are in
New York City.”
Sammy immediately had a slight crush on Leah.
After everyone chatted awhile they sat down for dinner. Leah sat right next
to Sammy…which made him very happy.
They did the Kiddush, the washing of the hands, and the karpas before they
came to the breaking of the middle matzah.
The three pieces of matzah were placed in the Matzah Cover and broken in the
center of the Seder table. The middle matzah was removed and broken in half.
Sammy’s Abba made Leah and him close their eyes as he hid the matzah.
As they started the service and read from the Haggadah Sammy felt a rush of
pride as they explained everything on the Seder Plate: The Haroseth, Parsley,
Roasted Egg, Shank Bone and Bitter Herbs.
The symbols of spring were represented also the sacrificial lamb bone. The
freshly grated horseradish reflecting the bitter affliction of slavery and the
4 glasses of wine poured to represent the 4 stages of the Exodus.
When it came to the 4 questions Leah insisted that Sammy and she do it
together. Sammy was as red as the horseradish while reciting Ma-nish-ta-naw
ha-lai-law ha-zeh- mee-kawl ha-la-los? in unison with Leah.
Sammy’s yarmulka fell off as he was reaching for a piece of gefilte fish.
Leah picked up the hand knit kippa and placed it gently back on his head.
After dinner, and before they sang songs, Leah and Sammy went to look for
the Afikomen. Sammy did not look in the usual place. He feigned ignorance as to
where the matzah could be hidden. Instead he guided his new cousin and
friend toward the buffet table in the dining room…sure that she would find it.
And as usual Abba hid it in the same place.
“Oh,” Leah exclaimed “I found it!”
Her pleasure was evident in her flushed face and wide grin.
Sammy was happy. He now knew the true meaning of giving…getting pleasure
from someone else’s happiness.
Everyone helped clean up and then left. Only Leah and her parents remained
since they were staying over.
Sammy’s parents wanted to give their bedroom to Dina and Nathan but they
insisted on sleeping on the pull out couch.
“Such a generous offer,” Dina said, “but we can’t accept. It’s enough you
are having us stay.”
Then they took gifts out for the family.
To Sammy’s surprise when he opened his it contained the game boy that he had
“How did you know?’ Sammy asked. “This is just what I wanted.”
Sammy saw his mother give Dina a wink.
“It was really unnecessary for you to bring anything. It is out pleasure to
have you.” Abba said.
The next day Sammy took Leah to meet his friends and together they all went
to Central Park which was right near where Sammy lived.
Sammy’s friends loved Leah.
That night at the second Seder it was just the Levy’s and their houseguests
that gathered. Leah and Sammy did the 4 questions together again and this
time Leah insisted that Sammy look in the drawer with her for the Aftikomen,
which of course had been placed their by Sammy’s Abba.
When it was time for their guests to leave the next morning, Sammy was sorry
to see them go.
“Let’s email each other,” Leah said.
“That’s a great idea.” Sammy replied
“Maybe you can come visit us next year. Cincinnati can be a pretty cool
place you know.” Leah informed Sammy.
Sammy couldn’t believe that what he was dreading and thinking would be a
problem for him turned out to be the best Passover Seder he ever had.
from the March Passover 2007 Edition of the Jewish Magazine