My Way

There’s a Frank Sinatra song in here somewhere, waiting to be iMovie-d against an iPhone photo montage of gleaming place settings and an artfully angled haggadah worthy of Instagram. A small girl in an Abercrombie dress wearing a Yair Emmanuel kipa from her mother’s tallis bag, a boy with South American parents proudly holding the afikomen bag he found under the sofa during a break from watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

We intertwined tradition with our regular weekend get-together, mixing the traditional with the I-don’t-care-about-order. A beef brisket with Mediterranean spices and nuts. Grape leaves stuffed with kitniyos. Ice cream with a Manischewitz glaze for dessert. I didn’t even lead the Seder this year, letting my friend with newfound Jewish roots (a smattering of Ashkenazi confirmed by the randomness of 23andme) read the English haggadah and parrot me for the parts he wanted to do in Hebrew. Fir kashes? We only did one. I forgot to sing Dayenu.

I’m not sure, after last night, I could ever do a Seder like the ones I experienced in a different life. Last night I got to do it my way, relaxed, wine, milchigs and fleishigs and gebrokts. Today I feel like I’m in a place where I can let some guilt go, because I’m a good person who loves and is loved and it doesn’t matter if I don’t shave my head or wear the wrong brand of tights.

I didn’t put an orange on my Seder plate or a coffee bean or a banana, but I did take a moment to be in a place that was grateful and acknowledged other humans who are in a predicament they feel they can’t escape from. I thought of people stuck at a table not far from me, despairing at the irony of no longer being enslaved. I don’t have an “it gets besser” wisdom moment; we choose our own destinies and have to walk through journeys that are unique and often perilous. An orange on a Seder plate isn’t going to make it any better.

I do know that doing it my way this year from a place of acknowledgement feels better. It feels hopeful. It feels less painful. It feels moving-on-esque. I’ll always have a past, and that’s ok. It’s enough.

Hashtag I don’t need Dayenu.

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2 responses to “My Way

  1. I’m so glad for you, Esther. I also do my Seder so differently now. When we were bal teshuvah I was ashamed of my dread of Pesach and I was so stressed about doing it all the ‘right’ way. And we attended or had Seders that lasted until 3 am. Badge of honor to brag how long your Seder lasted. Ugh!! Now we have a warm, welcoming Seder. We all take turns reading until Shulchan Aruch and then we’re done. We spend the rest of the evening talking, visiting and relaxing. I truly look forward to it now.

    • Thanks, Sandra. The one-upmanship of an orthodox or chassidish seder sucks any enjoyment out of the tradition. I’m glad you’re looking forward to it now rather than dreading it.

      And while I think I’m a queen, you’re the first person to call me Esther 😉

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