I have mentioned previously on this blog that I am the member of a Facebook group called Originally from Brighton on which members post pictures or stories about growing up in the Brighton section of Boston. Most of the postings are on the order of: “Who remembers…” followed by reminiscences of a person, bakery, restaurant, news story, or any other aspect of growing up in the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s.
Yesterday, as I spent the day lying in bed trying to recover from the flu, I kept thinking about one place I knew growing up. For whatever reason, I thought about the small supermarket which was up the street from our house. The market closed sometime in the late 60s, I believe after a particularly bad snowstorm in 1969. There was nothing special about it but one small detail has stayed in my mind all these years.
So, after Shabbat, I decided to post on “Originally from Brighton” and ask whether anyone remembers the market. I purposefully did not mention the one aspect that I remembered. I wanted to see if anyone else would mention it.
Sure enough, almost immediately, two of my Facebook friends, two women whom I went to elementary school with, each posted the fact that they in fact remembered the market and, incredibly, each mentioned the detail that I remembered. They each mentioned that they remembered that at the checkout stand, there wasn’t an electric belt but rather t a wooden handle which that the cashier would pull to move your groceries down to the cash register.
I don’t know why I remembered that specific detail so well but clearly I’m not the only one.
It is a great comfort to know that there are memories we share with others.
As we prepare to sit down at the Seder this coming Friday night, we will gather, each in our homes or the homes of family or friends, to remember the Exodus in the way that we choose. Our seders will be different as each of us will bring our own family traditions, political perspectives, attitudes towards Jewish ritual etc. etc. towards the night’s proceedings. Each will be different and that is the way it should be. While our Seders may be different in detail, the fact that we are sitting together remembering this ancient miraculous story of redemption connects us with every other Jew at every other Seder table.
But, I also believe that, on some level, somewhere within each of us, there is a memory of a small detail about the experience of the Exodus which unites us with every other Jew. We may not appreciate it. We may not understand it. We may not be conscious of it. But, it is there. Underneath all of the cosmetic and more significant differences which make “our Seder different from all others”, there is that shared memory. I plan to ask those who are at home what they think that memory might be. While the answer might be different for every person, maybe we’ll be surprised and realize that there is a memory that truly unites us.
May those memories continue to unite us as a people across space and across time.
Opening up the possibility for such a shared memory is what makes “this night” special.