By Mordechai Schmutter
Pesach is all about minhagim. No two families have the same minhagim, and you always want to make sure that your kids carry on whichever minhagim you have. Minhagim are serious business and are not to be treated lightly.
But you also want to make sure your kids know which things you do because they’re your minhagim and which things you do because that’s just what you do. Pesach has a lot of moving parts, and you can’t assume that they know which things are which. So if you don’t want to talk to your kids on Pesach, at least write it in your will.
Here is a list of things that, as far as my kids know, are our Pesach minhagim. Unless I say something to my kids, my sons are going to get married and tell their wives this is what we do, and my daughters will specifically marry people who don’t do some of these things. (“Do you have a minhag to eat way too many eggs?” they’ll ask someone on a date.)
- We have a minhag to break something while Pesach cleaning. Usually the oven, but sometimes just knickknacks that can’t stand up to once-a-year dusting.
- After I clean my kids’ rooms, I have a minhag to turn around to take one last look at the room, because when I come back later, it won’t look this neat.
- I also have a minhag to hang little signs on each room that say “Cleaned by Totty” and that the kids have a minhag to ignore.
- We have a minhag to buy one less fridge liner than we need.
- I have a minhag, when I’m selling my chametz, to coolly slip the rabbi some money in a handshake, even though there’s no one else in the room.
- We have a minhag to get haircuts before Pesach. Really short. And when we get it, we have to say, “This is for Lag Ba’Omer.”
- We have a minhag to forget to cut paper towels until ten seconds before yom tov, and then cut an entire roll in a panic.
- We have a minhag, handed down through the generations, to go to zoos on chol ha’moed.
- We also have a minhag to go on the Staten Island Ferry at least once every few years. Once on the ferry, we have a minhag to point out the Statue of Liberty.
- We have a minhag to spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to find a Jew-free attraction to go to. (Not specifically Jew-free; it just happens to be that Jews are the people that go that week. I don’t hate Jews; I hate all people equally. But mostly crowds.)
- I have a minhag that every kos has to be a mixture of at least two or three kinds of wine.
- I have a minhag to spill wine on my kittel. I’m extra-makpid on this one.
- We have a minhag to do a bad job breaking our matzah. One year I put my thumb through it.
- Our official minhag is that for the Mah Nishtanah the youngest kid goes first, except that the youngest kid has never in the history of our family actually gone first. The actual minhag is that the youngest child stands up on a chair, gets shy, shrugs his shoulders for ten minutes, and eventually agrees to do it after his siblings, but even then he doesn’t always do it. And the older siblings have a minhag to speed through it as fast as they can, like they’re embarrassed that they have questions. On Pesach.
- My kids have a minhag every year to try to figure out which of the kids are which of the arba’ah banim.
- My kids’ school has a minhag not to teach the kids a single thing about Tzei U’lemad. Even though that’s arguably the main part of Maggid.
- We have a minhag, when a lot of family members come over, that between every paragraph of Maggid, someone goes to the bathroom or checks on a baby or puts someone to bed or does something in the kitchen or pretends to go to the bathroom but actually looks for the Afikoman so he can hide it somewhere else and we all sit around and wait. And then someone says a d’var Torah.
- We have a minhag to use our pinkies to take out wine for the makkos, and then to lick our pinkies afterward.
- Whoever makes Haggados has a minhag to use ten whole pages for the makkos even though they take us ten seconds to get through. (Alternatively, we have a minhag to basically fly through until Makkas Bechoros, even though the artists painstakingly recreated every single makkah on a separate page. We’re dipping with one hand and turning pages with the other. Should we sit there with our pinkies dripping, listening to a vort on Arov?)
- We have a minhag to measure our matzah up against that shiurim picture, and then break it so the shards fit into the corners of the picture. My brother-in-law is Sephardi, so his minhag is to measure it by weight. So he brings his own Pesachdik scale. (Alternatively, you can use a bathroom scale. First you step onto the scale holding the matzah, then you step onto the scale not holding the matzah, all while taking great pains not to bring the matzah into the bathroom.)
- We have a minhag to taste the matzah the first night of Pesach and say that this matzah isn’t as good as last year’s. This tradition dates back thousands of years. Apparently, matzah has been steadily getting worse. Yeridas ha’doros, I guess. No matzah in history has ever been as good as the previous year, going all the way back to Mitzrayim, which had the best matzah ever. Maybe the secret is baking it on your back.
- We all have a minhag to make faces while eating marror. I’m picturing my sons telling their wives to do this. “No, you have to make faces. And then everyone laughs. Zecher l’shibud.”
- We have a minhag to attempt to, but never actually, make chrein out of the horseradish for the last days.
- My wife has a minhag to buy one single beet for this.
- My wife has a minhag to make way too much charoses. And then to remind me that the minhag is to dip the marror and then shake it off. How do you shake charoses off shreds of marror on a spoon without blinding everyone around you?
- We have a minhag, at the beginning of Shulchan Orech, to eat the egg in salt water and then grab the whole rest of the potato off the Seder plate and fight over it. One person has a minhag to then lose that potato in the salt water and use his bare hands to find it.
- Possibly related, we have a minhag to throw out the salt water and make some fresh for the second night.
- We have a minhag to start Shulchan Orech by saying, “I’m not hungry. I hope there’s not a lot of food.”
- We have a minhag to do whatever we can to not have leftovers on chol ha’moed. Because leftovers can ruin a chol ha’moed. By the end of yom tov, we’re begging our guests to take our leftovers, but they’re already out the door. They’re sneaking upstairs right after Ma’ariv so they can pack. “Yeah, we’ll say Havdallah at home.”
- My kids had a minhag at some point to hide the Afikoman on the highest shelf they could possibly reach, which was directly in my line of vision.
- We have a minhag not to say any of the divrei Torah about bentching during bentching.
- We have a minhag, the rest of yom tov, to bentch out of coffee-themed Haggados from the supermarket.
- Our kids have a minhag to insist that Eliyahu HaNavi drank from his kos. Then we pour it back so we can reuse it the next day.
- We have a minhag to fly through Nirtzah. One year growing up, I tried saying divrei Torah, and people were not receptive.
- We have a minhag to remind everyone to count Sefirah right before Echad Mi Yodea. (Do you know why people do it right before Echad Mi Yodea? Because we’re scared to do Echad Mi Yodea first. Someone is going to say, “Who knows one? I know one! One is today’s .Â .Â . Oops.”)
- We have a minhag for someone to announce, on the first night of Sefirah, that they didn’t count Omer the previous night. On some years, someone says, “Last night was zero!” and then someone else says, “No, last night was 354!” And then someone says, “Oh no! I haven’t counted since Shavuos!”
- We have a minhag to intend to make animal noises for Chad Gadya. Until we get to the stick.
- We have a minhag to look at the clock as we finish the Seder, as if when we finish has any kind of significance. Like everyone’s leaving Mitzrayim, and we don’t want to miss it. Or like we’re waiting for the year that we go, “Hey, it’s z’man Kriyas Shema! We made it! It’s a good thing we zoomed through Nirtzah!”
Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of five books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.