All I worried about was how I’d be perceived (or judged) as a Jewish mother. In particular, I was stressed out over the multiple ways my culinary skills might be evaluated. Would the matzah balls come out big and fluffy? Would the matzah popovers (we call them bulkies) be light, airy, and large? Would my chicken soup rival the expert recipe produced time and again by my mother and grandmother? Would my own versions of charoset and brisket pass the tests? Would I officially be invited to join the ranks of other Jewish family matriarchs from across the millennia?
If you read my blog of last week, then you know that this year was the first time that I was responsible for making Passover. And, I am happy to report, that all went well. I have nothing for which to apologize or feel embarrassed. My daughter-in-law-to-be and I got along in the kitchen and she did not end up calling off the wedding. Whew!
There was one thing, however, that I neglected to take into account. I completely underestimated the challenge presented to and pressure exerted upon my husband as he assumed his position at the head of the table.
My darling hubby didn’t really grow up with Passover Seders. He has some faint memories of celebrating the holiday occasionally at his grandmother’s, but cannot recall who led them, who participated, or how they made it through one – if they even did – in its entirety. His Jewish education – completed upon his becoming a Bar Mitzvah at the age of thirteen – did not include the values, symbols, rituals, and practices of a Seder.
He does recall, however, just about every year he attended Seders with my family (immediate and extended) and me from the tenth grade on. And, it was through those yearly holiday gatherings that he learned to appreciate the meaning of and participate in a Seder. But that doesn’t mean he developed the training or the confidence to lead one.
Yet, there he was at the head of the table with his annotated Haggadah. He had done some research online; he prepared questions and comments; and he had mapped out his approach to both evenings. (Okay, we almost forgot kippot, but quickly recovered!) He was well prepared and ready to engage, challenge, and lead.
As I watched, listened, and actively supported him, I was overcome with mixed emotions. I missed the familiar comfort and security of having my brother, father, or grandfather guide us along the process. (My son later admitted to feeling bad that we often take my brother – the rabbi – for granted!) They always made it so easy for the rest of us to just show up! At the same time, however, it was clear that we were ushering in a new generation…and a new and different way of doing things.
My husband and I learned a lot this Passover. We stepped out of our comfort zones. We blended favorites from our past with adapted new approaches. We ventured from the familiar to the realm of the unknown. And, we all – we and our kids – survived it all while fulfilling the mitzvot of the Passover Seder.
Next year? Hopefully Passover will be in Florida with my brother back at the head of the table…