Tantalizing smells wafting from the kitchen, Great-Grandma’s china being carefully laid on the table, wine breathing in a sparkling decanter, children scuffing their new shoes and wriggling out of clip on ties and warring siblings making peace. The holidays are a great time for us to come together and are also a sublime time to celebrate what we don’t have in common. Ironically, it’s the holidays that make these disparate elements gleam as brightly as the polished silver on my dining room table.
One of the things that I had to deal with this Passover was my honey’s teenage son staying with us for the vacation week and his daughter coming by to celebrate her 20th birthday. My honey, God bless him, is very spiritual but does not share anything close to the same level of religious practice that I observe. So in true partnership, I’ve had to change a lot of how I uphold my traditions. We agreed to eat out so his daughter wouldn’t have to suffer through a Kosher for Passover cake and he had to give up pretzels and the ability to use the toaster in our home for this week.
On any level, whether you are from the same faith or not, religion is about tolerance and being present, without being wedded to outcome. So sure, I’d love if it my honey were a tad more traditional, but where I choose to embody the meaning of the holidays is to find a more expansive and accepting path. We can take this tact on any area: our jobs, our family and our personal paths. Especially in this day and age, that is something worth shouting from the mountain tops.
One of the things that we can all agree upon (as my honey and I do) is that the holidays are a wonderful opportunity to show off culinary skills and for me, especially, because I’m often too busy during “regular” days, I admittedly do take great pride in showcasing my fluffy Matzah balls, delectable chicken soup and savory brisket. Thankfully for my meat eating family, I became a vegetarian years after learning to prepare these holiday mainstays. Whether for Passover or Easter, the holidays provide major pressure to have everything be just right because it’s one of the rare times during the year extended families gather. And for most people, this is where the significance ends.
Today I came across a blog by tweep, writer Gabe Berman. He shared the significance the holiday holds for his family this year as his father was not well enough to be present at the Seder table. Reading his blog I was moved and awakened to something very significant; something that I’ve lost touch with in recent months. I can’t convince my honey that my way is “right” nor should I. But I remembered in my own experience, my spirituality is a vibrant, living, breathing part of me and this is what I hope to pass on to my children (and Ok, my secret charoset recipe too) and as I posted as a comment on Gabe’s blog:
“I am a spiritual being having a very human experience. My work is inspired by personal traumas and triumphs and everything in between, and I am grateful for the reminder that we’re all in the same boat, regardless of whether some of us came over on the Mayflower or on barges that were turned away at Ellis Island.
As for the whole Passover thing – I wanted to share that the true meaning of the word “Mitzrayim” doesn’t mean Egypt, but rather “narrow places.” This is what Passover is about for me and what I teach my children. Don’t get me wrong, I love the cinematic representations of Dreamworks Prince of Egypt and Charleton Heston in The Ten Commandments, but Passover is a celebration of our personal exodus from our individual narrow places into a new realm of expansiveness and ultimately, of love. God brought us out of Egypt but also gave us the ability to bring ourselves out from any place that we enslave ourselves – whether that be sadness, apathy, being disempowered – or anything else that holds us back and dampens our spirit.”
I hope we can transcend the exhaustive preparation and execution the holidays engender to know, feel and remember a deeper purpose. We may come from our traditions from different views, but as we sit around our dining tables sharing our favorite dishes and sacred teachings, I pray that we each find a way to feel the connection to each other and to our own inner essence.
And honey, great job on the latkes too.