Altneuland- Theodor Herzl's Zionist Utopia
Kingscourt smothered several "Devils!" in his windpipe, but had enough savoir taire and humor to imitate the curious rites. The Christian clergymen did not hold aloof.
The host washed his hands in a silver basin brought by Miriam, took a bit of parsley from the platter before him, dipped it into salt water, pronounced a blessing and ate it. Sprigs of parsley were then handed around the table. Kingscourt ate his with a lively grimace at which Mrs. Gothland smiled gently. The egg and roast joint were removed from the platter, and the covered dish was held up with the solemn words, "Behold, this is the bread of affliction which our forefathers ate in the land of Egypt. ..."
Mrs. Gothland came to Kingscourt's aid once more by pointing to the German translation opposite the Hebrew text of the Haggadah.
The Second Cup was filled with wine; and David, as the youngest man in the company, rose to put the traditional Four Questions.
"Mah nishtanah ha-leilah ha-ze mikkol halleloth?" "Wherein doth this night differ from all other nights?" On all other nights we may eat bread, both leavened and unleavened, while on this night we may eat only unleavened bread. On all other nights we may eat every manner of herb, while on this night we may eat only bitter herbs. ...
The flat Passover cakes on the platter were uncovered, and all replied in unison to the Four Questions: "Slaves were we unto Pharaoh in Egypt. And the Eternal our God drew us forth with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm... "
And so they went through with the Seder ceremony half ritual, half family festival. This most Jewish of all the festivals dates back farther in history than any other civilized usage in modern times. For hundreds and hundreds of years it has been observed without change, while the whole world changed. Nations disappeared from history, others rose. The world grew larger. Undreamed of continents emerged from the seas. Unimagined natural forces were harnessed for the pleasure and comfort of man. But this one people still remained unchanged, retaining its ancient customs, true to itself, rehearsing the woes of its forbears. Israel, a people of slavery and freedom, still prayed in ancient words to the Eternal its God.
One guest at that Seder table pronounced the Hebrew words of the Haggadah with the zeal of a penitent. He was finding himself again, and his throat was often so tight with emotion that he had to master his longing to cry out aloud. It was almost thirty years since he himself had asked the Four Questions. ...Then had come "Enlightenment," the break with all that was Jewish, and the final logical leap into the void, when he had had no further hold on life. At this Seder table he seemed to himself a prodigal son, returned to his own people.
The first part of the ceremony ended, dinner was served. Kingscourt called across the table. "Fritz! I'd no idea you were so perfect a Hebrew scholar."
"I confess I did not know it myself. It seems one forgets nothing learned in childhood."
The name of Joseph Levy, whom Kingscourt and Friedrich had not yet met, recurred continually in the table talk. The Steinecks spoke of him as "Tschoe."
"It's all wrong that Tschoe's not here," said the architect loudly.
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