What’s your favorite thing about Passover?
My favorite thing about Passover is that it might be one of the only things that ALL Jews can agree on. Ask even the most secular Israeli what they do that’s Jewish and you will most likely hear “fast on Yom Kippur and attend my family’s seder”. They might never go to services on Shabbat; they might eat bacon cheeseburgers on Rosh Hashana; but every year they will sit with their families on Passover and recount the story of the Exodus.
I love sitting at my own seder imagining Jews everywhere doing the same thing - sitting with their families, eating with their communities, and telling the same story I am telling. People at all levels of observance from the most Orthodox to the most Secular share this one thing in common - remembering the story of the Israelites’ redemption from slavery to freedom, from Egypt to the Promised Land. Because, as tradition teaches, “every person in every generation must look upon themselves as though they personally had come out of slavery.” Of all the ritual related commandments we have, this might be one of the very few universally observed. And I love that.
So many of us observe this ritual, eating together and retelling the story of the Exodus, putting ourselves in the shoes of the Israelites and imagining the ways that we have suffered and triumphed in our own lives in big or small ways. So many of us have fun, meaningful, and sometimes ridiculous traditions attached to our family seders. Some families have finger puppets and masks, some have bingo cards. Some people sing songs, some read poetry and beat box. Sometimes we sit on the floor on pillows feeding our neighbors. Sometimes we flog each other with scallions. I could go on and on with well known (and lesser known) Passover traditions and I would still probably leave out an element you feel is essential to the celebration of Passover. And I haven’t even talked about “traditional” foods!
Which leads me to one of my least favorite things about Passover (and it’s not gefilte fish!!). Sometimes when I sit in someone else’s house or join a new community for seder I miss the Passover traditions from my childhood that make seder feel right. It can be hard to feel that the story is being told right or that it is even my story when my mom’s Meyer lemon chicken isn’t on the table, or my dad’s marked up “Egalitarian Haggadah” from 1984 isn’t the haggadah we’re reading. But I hold on to the beauty of the universal nature of this holiday and find comfort in all that I described above - communities and families from the most traditional to the most out-of-the-box are all sitting down, like me, telling our story. It is one thing we can agree on: the importance of remembering who we are, where we’ve been, and what we’ve been through.
The tradition of Passover encourages each of us to tell the story in a way that helps us connect to our collective past and also celebrate our future. It encourages us to celebrate our freedoms while remembering that not all are free and it reminds us to always help lift up those who are still burdened.
Wishing you all a wonderful Passover and meaningful seders with your families, friends, or perhaps your TBK community!