My brother and his wife live in St. Paul, Minnesota, with their two daughters (which I suppose if Nathan is to have is way, makes them my nieces). Neither one of us is a mutli-millionaire (yet), so we don’t often have the time and the money to get together, but we both try to make family vacations and the holidays a priority.
Passover is probably the only significant religious event that we do every year, and even that is far from devout (our Seder: “The history of Judaism in nine words: they tried to kill us. We won. Let’s eat”). But it is an important thing, a strong connection to our past, and a way to show our children why we care about each other.
Unfortunately, my brother wasn’t able to get time off from work during Passover this year, and it seemed as if it wouldn’t be possible for all of us to get together. He called about a week ago, however, to tell me that he really wanted us to have a seder, even if it meant doing things a tad on the unconventional side.
Passover this year begins this coming Monday. My brother and his family will arrive in NYC on Saturday and leave early Monday morning. We’re going to hold a seder, then, on Sunday night, and well, just pretend that we got the dates right.
What does this mean? I don’t know. Not much, really. We’re all together, we’re going to eat all the same food, say all the same prayer(s), open the door for Elijah as directed–only a day early. I’m aware that the holiday falls on the day that it does for a reason (although I’m not entirely sure what that reason is–do we know the exact calendar date of the Exodus? Really?). But I choose having my loved ones with me over, shall we say, cold and clinical religious accuracy.
And I’m not drinking kosher wine.
I was reminded of all of this today when my brother sent me an article on NPR’s website: “‘Our “Haggadah’: A Guide For Interfaith Families,” which is apparently about Cokie Robert’s take on the faith of of our fathers.
That I should be getting a lesson in how to do the Jew thing from Cokie Roberts is cause for a certain amount of alarm, to be sure. But she did say one thing that stuck with me, and perhaps gives me an excuse to hold me seder whenever I damn well choose (how about December?):
Hosting her first Passover Seder in 1969 was an intimidating experience, Cokie says. “It’s hard enough just to have a dinner party, much less to have one where you have strange foods and the table looks different from any other night.”
Cokie had brought a Haggadah — the Jewish text that guides the Seder — from a local synagogue to direct the evening’s rituals, but quickly found there were many critics in the room. “I had a lot of friends who felt free to comment,” she says. ” ‘Oh, you left out this part’ … ‘Wait a minute, you shouldn’t have put that part in,’ and all that.” The next year, she decided it was time to create a uniquely Roberts Haggadah.