We did not have a Passover Seder yesterday. Because Jayla spent the weekend visiting our oldest in NY, it was better for family logistics to host tonight. So today we are busy preparing and tonight we look forward to hosting over a dozen friends.
Passover is probably the most important holiday in the whole year for me personally. Its themes and messages resonate so powerfully with things I care deeply about; I have decades of warm memories related to the food and traditions and the people I have been able to celebrate with over the years.
It is the one time of year I personally am committed to a formal dinner: matching tableware, fancy embossed white table cloths [which I actually ironed today], little vases of flowers on the table[s].
Having chosen a life partner who is not Jewish, I feel extraordinarily lucky that John has embraced the Jewish traditions that are important to me so wholeheartedly. It is truly a family affair: the cleaning, the cooking [which he does so much of], etc.
Perhaps my most significant personal joy is the years I have spent reading and collecting haggadot. 17 years ago I spent months reading dozens of them, and compiled my own haggadah that I thought reflected the values of our extended family. We are still using that one mostly, though I often supplement with other readings I find each year. Changing it up, depending on the age of the kids and how many actual Jews there are at our table. For over a decade, non-Jews outnumber Jews at our Passover table – a reflection of our choice to move to a rural community, not join a synagogue, and the fact that much of my extended family has chosen not to continue the tradition.
It does make me sad that there are few Jewish folks who were raised Jewish celebrating the Passover Seder at our table. There certainly is less singing than I would like. And less Hebrew. But my heart is also warmed by the fact that we have friends who care about us, and who find the themes of Passover compelling such that they want to share this very special holiday with us. And rare tears of happiness come to my eyes when I look across the long table and see my atheist, Catholic-raised husband recite most of the prayers in Hebrew along with me, without even referring to the text.
Our home is not kosher, not for Passover, nor year round. We did not cleanse our house of chametz, and tomorrow I won’t bat an eyelash if my daughters have toast for breakfast. But today all 3 that live under this roof worked with me to make the delicious and addictive chocolate covered matzah toffee that we look forward to all year. Leah can’t wait for the gefilte fish. And Jona decided at the last minute to invite one of her closest friends from school.
We will tell the story of Passover tonight; we will reflect on how its message is relevant to us all today. And, in our own way we will, authentically, carry on a thousand-plus year old tradition. Dayenu.