Making Room for New Traditions
In last week’s blog, I offered some thoughts about Passover. My brother, as rabbi of the Orangetown Jewish Center, offered a follow-up of his own in this week’s OJC blog called Two Rabbis, One Voice, Three Opinions. His summary is far better than mine would’ve been. But, he didn’t highlight what was for many at our table a particularly memorable moment.
A series of questions – to complement the Seder – were posed throughout. Participants were invited to offer their own thoughts and answers. In the section that pertained to the four sons, the question was…Wise: What is the best thing Judaism offers to the world? Without missing a beat, my cousin answered, “This. This is the best thing. Being with the family. After all, why else would we drive twenty hours to be here for these two days?”
This matter-of-fact declaration was huge. It truly made an impact on us. Especially on my mother.
First of all, to set the stage, it was Alon’s decision to join our family for Passover this year. His mother (my mom’s sister) passed away in December and this was a family first without her. His two brothers celebrated the holiday with their wives’ families and his father joined one in Israel. So, he drove his brood from New Jersey to Florida to be with us. We loved having them.
On top of that, Alon is the youngest of nine first cousins (I’m the eldest). He’s not one to wear his emotions on his sleeve…at least not in front of us. And frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard him express his feelings about the family. So, his affirmation was both surprising and supremely poignant. Answering the question as he did made everyone feel proud and grateful.
Equally important, Alon’s voice and others’ were heard this year. They were enabled to participate in ways that went beyond merely reading a designated paragraph in the Haggadah. Various comments gave us pause and made us think. I am confident that the ideas shared will inform conversations, and possibly influence behaviors, long into the future.
It’s impossible to know what next year’s Seders will entail – what new foods we’ll try, what new questions will be pondered, and who will surround the table – but this Passover set the table for new possibilities.
Happy Passover and Happy Easter!