Passover came and went this year. We were in it for every moment of the holiday but we didn’t struggle. It simply passed through.
Passover is my favorite holiday and for some reason this year, I was thinking about all of the ways I love the holiday, how it makes me feel, what it makes me remember. I have been doing lots of reflecting lately, communing with old memories, thinking about the passage of time. Passover makes me feel small, thinking about the time spent at my grandmother’s dining room table, and it makes me feel cared for, watching my parents extend hospitality to our family, regularly setting a table for twenty or more and making extra room for last minute guests.
In present day, the week had a few high moments mixed with mostly mundane days. It was a week of juggling family and work. Our girls were on school vacation and I was managing a major work deadline and our backup childcare is a Jewish institution (who was also closed half the week). We were running from one place to the next, constantly pleading with the girls to let us get some work done, and squeezing in the Seders even when our plans were foiled.
It was a reminder that I’m in a phase of life where I have little control over what happens tomorrow. After a month of midnight vomiting, spiked fevers, and one strep diagnosis, I didn’t put much stock in making plans one day in advance. Making Seder plans weeks in advance? Hilarious! In the end, a last minute fever at our house and croup at my sister’s house completely derailed our joint celebration. It was strange and adult to call things off on account of sickness but as I told my sister, “Some years, you do what you need to do.”
Stranger than the adjustment of plans, I kept sitting with this idea that we have entered a phase of life where the people managing the ceremonies and rituals are the people raising the littlest children. For my sister and me, this is certainly the case. I don’t remember how and when this happened when I was growing up, but there was a time when we spent most holidays with my father’s parents and then a time when we hosted my mother’s family. I don’t think there was a definitive moment when my grandmother decided she capitulated the host role, but slowly over time, hosting became more difficult and eventually she moved to our hometown and was done with it.
I had this moment during Passover where all of the memories of the holiday wove themselves together and all of the hopes for the future flashed before my eyes. I held them both together in the same moment and it was a beautiful thing to consider–the idea that we celebrate this holiday as part of a long continuum of people who have performed rituals and kept traditions.
In keeping traditions this year, I was proud of my girls who were remarkably composed for the entire week. It was a week of teachable moments: describing the dietary restrictions and patiently explaining how different families have different rules about the holiday. Abstention is a difficult concept for children to understand. They almost never questioned rituals or complained, and they seemed to understand that in observing the holiday, we were carving a Passover and non-Passover time of the year.
And on Monday night, we decided to end our holiday. If it was over in Israel, we were ready, too. The girls picked the meal: fresh pasta and red sauce and a delicious loaf of bread to celebrate the end of a holiday week.
I think about the blessing my dear rabbi friend once invoked at the end of Passover–though we often say next year in Jerusalem, I am simply thinking ahead to next year, where my girls will be, where my family will be, and I can’t wait to assemble people and show them hospitality in celebration of freedom.