Jaza's World Trip

Why is this seder different from all others?

Tonight was an experience like none I've ever had before: a seder night in Peru. With the help of my dad, and of my rabbi back home in Sydney, I had organised to go to the Chabad House here in Lima. In fact I ended up going to the rabbi's house, which was probably even better. Seder in Peru is in many ways the same as it is anywhere else in the world — except, not quite.

Being Chabad, the whole affair was a bit of a balagan, which was nice and familiar to me. When I got there, they were frantically stapling together photocopied sheets to make haggadahs. Then, when we still had a large pile left to make, someone announced that the sun had set, and that we couldn't staple any more; so we just folded the rest together.

After a quick set of mincha and maariv prayers, the seder commenced. There were tonnes of Israelis around — perhaps more than 50 — and the rabbi invited myself and an American couple back to his place, since the whole seder at the synagogue was to be in Hebrew.

We walked over to Rabbi Blumenfeld's apartment, which is just around the corner from the shule, in the classy suburb of San Isidro. There were about 40 of us there for seder, but they'd prepared food and tables to accommodate about 100! Almost everyone there spoke Spanish as their preferred language, except for myself, and the couple from California, so Rabbi Blumenfeld conducted the whole seder in Spanish.

In the usual Chabad style, the pre-eating part of the seder dragged on and on, and people got more hungry and less intrigued as the haggadah-readings and the explanations continued. Finally, at about 11pm, it came time for the festive meal, and we all ravenously dug in to the feast of soup, chicken, roast beef, potatoes, and more. After all the waiting, it really did feel like we were being delivered out of bitter bondage, and into the promised land!

The explanations were all in Spanish, but the rabbi had asked a guy sitting near us — named Joey — to translate as much as he could for us as we went along. But Joey soon gave up on this, as the rabbi was talking too fast. Anyway, I was able to understand bits and pieces, thanks to the combined facts that: I do know a bit of Spanish; there were bits of Hebrew and Yiddish thrown in; and I'd basically heard it all before a million times in English, anyway.

Apart from the Spanish, it was basically what you'd expect at a Chabad seder. Lots of little kids running around. Great food, but no matzah balls (since the water can cause the matzah to rise — theoretically). Dancing around the tables after dinner. No had-gad-ya. And plenty of interesting characters, come to join in the festivities.

Anyway, sound like Lima is the quiet option for spending seder night in Peru. Apparently, tonight in Cuzco, they had over 600 people (mostly Israeli) for the communal seder! So there's definitely no shortage of Yids in Peru.

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