We had just completed an inspired community Passover Seder. Most of the 135 guests who enjoyed the meaningful Seder had left, and the last few people were lingering and schmoozing. It was past midnight but we couldn’t just go to bed. After reading about the fifteen steps of freedom, we were awake and energized.
Something in the back of my mind told me that I wasn’t done for the night. I had a niggling feeling that there were still more Jews in Santa Fe who had not participated in a Seder at all. It was possible that there were Jews in the downtown Plaza area, not far from our Chabad center, who hadn’t fulfilled the basic mitzvah of eating matzah. In fact, it occured to me that most were not even aware that it was Passover.
I enlisted two of the lingering schmoozers. Judah from Brooklyn and Liv the violinist. We grabbed a box of matzah and a Haggadah and set out, walking towards the Plaza downtown area in search of Jews.
The main grounds of the Plaza yielded no results. The only place still open was a basement bar. I have walked past it many times, and never felt compelled to check it out. But who knows? Maybe there’s a Jew waiting there, I thought. We descended the stairs and asked around, but there were no Jews at the bar on Passover night.
I was relieved.
As we made our way back to the shul, we stopped at one more bar, which was getting ready to close for the night. Looking through the window, we saw two people. We stepped in, and asked the bartender and his friend if either of them were Jewish.
“I am half,” said one.
“The better one. My mom’s Jewish.”
We were delighted. “That makes you 100 percent Jewish,” I said. “You know, like Moses.”
We started chatting. I learned that his name was Aaron. “Like Moses’s brother,” I told him.
He didn’t know what it was that made this night different from all other nights, and he most certainly had not partaken in a Seder.
I pointed to the box of matzah that we had brought with us. “This is special hand-baked shmurah matzah. Poor man’s bread,” I told him. “And we’re going to have the most important part of the Seder right here, right now.”
Curious to know more, Aaron followed our lead. We cleared the chametz off a table, he washed his hands, recited the blessings, and fulfilled the mitzvah of eating matzah on Passover.
I wondered what he thought about his first Passover experience. It felt meaningful to him, he said. He thanked us. And would we let him keep the Haggadah and the kippah, so that he could continue his Seder at home?
We did. Then we headed back to the Jewish Center to continue cleaning up and preparing for the morning services.
—Rabbi Berel Levertov, Santa Fe Jewish Center – Chabad, Santa Fe, New Mexico