My Lenox Seder plate was wrapped carefully, placed in a carry-on tote, and is safely stowed in the overhead compartment. Our suitcases, stored somewhere in the belly of the plane, contain boxes of matzah, fruit jellies, packets of matzah ball mix, chicken soup seasoning, copies of the family Haggadah, and my Elijah’s Cup. I wasn’t going to take any chances this year.
The last time we went to Chicago for Passover, I was disappointed. I couldn’t buy everything I wanted for the holiday in a city that boasts over two hundred thousand Jews. Even my daughter was forced to admit that my local Kroger in Dunwoody, Georgia had a better selection than her Trader Joes’s or Jewel. Lessons learned! (For the record, I contemplated ordering and shipping everything through Amazon, but the prices were absolutely insane.) And so, I packed and am traveling with seventy pounds and a few hundred dollars worth of stuff to celebrate one of Judaism’s most popular and widely observed holidays with my kids…and their friends.
But, it’s not about the food, is it? The holiday, the preparations, the special foods, and the traditions are just good reasons for getting together. Getting together and remembering. Remembering years gone by and feeling fortunate. Feeling fortunate to have each other and being grateful for our freedom. Being grateful for the freedom to decide how and with whom we spend our moments and live our lives. Living lives that have value and are meaningful. Finding value and meaning in a world that often seems challenging and hopeless. Facing challenges and having hope when the odds are against us. And so it goes.
Tomorrow night, my husband and I will have Seder with thirteen young adults — all in their twenties. I want to hear and better understand their challenges and fears; their opportunities and dreams; their values, aspirations and hopes. I will use the lure of special foods, familiar songs, and Jewish traditions to engage with a generation from which I am decades removed, yet with which I strive to remain connected. And, while the subtleties may be lost on them, their mere presence at a Seder table with me will have the power to link memories from the days when they were small to a time in the future when they will have children of their own…a new generation to teach about and engage in what’s important. And so it goes.
Passover makes me feel grateful and blessed. Now I just pray that my brisket comes out okay.