Max and I, fellow rabbinical students at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion on the Cincinnati campus, dated for less than two years before our engagement. Max, who had thought for months about how he would achieve a meaningful proposal, finally decided that Pesach was going to be the perfect opportunity.
His parents volunteered to host seder that year (2013) at their home in Atlanta. Fortunately, my parents would be in attendance, as well as one of Max’s sisters, her husband, an aunt, an uncle, and a grandmother. With this in mind, Max knew that the seder would afford him the opportunity to surprise me with the ring and a chance to celebrate with family.
Each person at the seder was given a different Haggadah; Max, as a leader of the seder, called out each person at a prearranged time to read a passage. While I knew that I, as the youngest person at the table, would read the Four Questions, I did not know that I would answer a fifth!
When time came to recite the Four Questions, I began chanting; as I arrived at question number three, I saw an intentionally placed sticky note to “answer the fifth question.” I sensed what was happening, but with a bigger smile on my face, I continued to chant the Fourth Question.
As I finished the last question, Max got on one knee to ask a fifth, more personal question.
I said yes!
Until that big moment, the only people who knew what was happening were Max’s parents, my parents and a couple of close friends back home.
Max later told me that he was not nervous about my answer, but he was nervous that he might be too excited and say my full name incorrectly or say it with a stutter. (He did not do either.)
Despite the excitement, we completed the remainder of the seder — though we had a 45- minute intermission immediately after the fifth question to call family and friends and to toast with some (kosher-for-Passover) champagne. For some of our friends whom we would normally call, we knew they would be in the middle of their own seders; we opted for sending text messages to them. We later found out that many of them were texting back under their seder table! Once we knew that those we hold dear had received the good news, we went ahead and posted to Facebook.
We spent the following Pesach apart, in 2014, handling separate seder-leading responsibilities at student congregations; however, the “fifth question” was a topic at both seders.
Almost a year and a half later we were married on Rosh Chodesh Elul at the historic I.M. Wise Plum Street Temple in downtown Cincinnati. Festivities continued in Cincinnati with sheva berachot hosted by students, faculty and friends of the HUC-JIR community.
Fortunately, we will spend seder together this year at Max’s student congregation in Ft. Walton Beach, Fla. Together, we will remember the fifth question, and I’m sure the topic will arise during the seder!
Rachael Klein and Max Miller are fourth-year rabbinical students at HUC-JIR in Cincinnati and interns at I.M. Wise Temple. Rachael is completing her first unit of clinical pastoral education at Jewish Hospital and Max is serving a congregation in Ft. Walton Beach, Fla.