Happy Passover and Happy Easter

This year the lunar calendar has aligned Passover and Easter perfectly.  The first seder takes place on the evening of Good Friday, so this weekend Jews and Christians (except Eastern Orthodox Christians) will all be celebrating an important holiday. At least in my part of the world, it is also spring. My lawn is green, the daffodils are blooming, and there are buds on the trees about to burst into flower. It should be a joyous time. After all, Passover celebrates the liberation of the Jews from slavery, and Easter celebrates the resurrection of Christ. I hope that for all who celebrate (and for those who don’t) this weekend brings lots of joy.

For me, this year Passover is tinged with sadness. This is the first year my father will not be with us. It’s just two months since he died, but somehow it feels so much longer. So for today’s post, I want to ponder Passovers past and my father’s role in them.

When we first celebrated Passover, it was at my Aunt Elaine’s house. Her husband, my Uncle Phil, had grown up in a more traditional home than my mother and her sister or than my father. Uncle Phil could read Hebrew, and he knew the traditional songs and the blessings. So, of course, he led the seder. We used the Haggadah for the American Family—almost all in English, except for the blessings, the four questions, and some other passages. It was perfect for our assimilated, non-affiliated, non-religious family.  I was enchanted by the whole experience. It was my first and for the longest time only exposure to Judaism, and I loved the story, the music, the rituals, and, of course, searching for the afikomen.

Uncle Phil and Aunt Elaine

After the first couple of years, my mother must have decided that she also wanted to have seders at our home, and so we began to have one seder at my aunt and uncle’s house and one at our house. At our house, my father took over the leader’s role (with my uncle helping on all the Hebrew and the songs). Given that my father was not at all religious, it was perhaps an uncomfortable role for him to assume, but he certainly wasn’t going to let another man lead the seder in his house. If he was uncomfortable, he certainly did not show it. He always did a great job, and I can still hear his voice, reading the English text, admonishing us to be quiet and listen, and then giving up and moving on to the next page.

When my aunt and uncle moved to Florida, my father was all on his own as the leader. By then I was an adult and married with children, and we did one seder with my husband’s family, one with mine. My husband’s family’s seders were far more traditional and educational, but also always warm and filled with love. The seders at my parents’ house continued to be somewhat chaotic—too many people talking, too many people getting up and down, chasing the children, helping with the food and the dishes. My father continued to lead the seder, and we all read from the Haggadah and said the blessings and sang the songs. Our children read the four questions.  And in the midst of all the noise and chaos, the seders continued to be cherished by us all.

Then I became a grandmother. And we wanted our grandchildren to experience Passover at our home. Now my grandsons read the four questions. Now my husband and I hide the afikomen. And now my husband leads the seder.

Passover, 2016.

My father graciously moved out of the leader’s chair. I wonder whether that was hard for him—recognizing that another generation was taking over and that his time as the leader after over fifty years in that role was over. If so, he never showed it. He seemed to relish the opportunity to watch over the younger generations without having to worry about keeping the seder rolling along.

My dad, Passover 2016

This year there will be a missing chair at the table, a missing voice adding to the chaos, a missing mouth to feed. That missing chair, that missing voice, that missing mouth will be noticed and felt by us all. When we open the door for Elijah and wait for him to sip the wine, I will be watching for my father instead. Not, of course, literally. I don’t believe in ghosts. But I know that his spirit will be there inside each and every one of us as we hear, once again, the words of the Haggadah.

 

36 thoughts on “Happy Passover and Happy Easter

  1. Thank you, Amy, for giving us a glimpse into the Jewish family tradition of celebrating Passover with the reading of the Haggadah! Many years ago when Easter was also close to the Passover festival our pastor introduced us to this religious practice during one of our Bible studies. It was a wonderful experience, Happy Easter, Amy!

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  2. It usually takes a while to “hear his voice” “his laughter” “his wisdom”. Listen for it. It will be with you all your life.

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  3. Wishing you a happy Passover, Amy. And thank you – for so loyally sending me updates on family histories. You are a true gem. Regards, Vera.

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  4. Amy, Thank you for sharing your beautiful family story. I grew up in a Jewish by heritage home and we did not celebrate the holidays. There were many years when I was in my 30s and early 40s when a wonderful family I knew through the Washington Ethical Society (WES) included me in their seders which included their family and friends. Later one of the leaders at WES developed a wonderful Humanist seder which I went to for many years. This year will be special as we will be doing Humanist seder with a local Humanist Jewish congregation. Their rabbi will lead the seder and it will be held at WES.

    Happy Passover. I hope it has not been too painful for you this year. Your father’s spirit lives on in you and your family.

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      • It was lovely. By the way did you know that there is no actual evidence that the Jews were in Israel during the time the events in the Passover story took place? Nothing in Egyptian history or archeological information. I had no idea although I know many of the other Bible stories are just stories to teach lessons. That information was not part of the seder but part of a question and answer session after the seder.

        I do have a funny family story related to Passover. My mother’s family did not keep kosher but did not eat bread during Passover. My mother said that she and her sister were the only kids who took their ham sandwiches to school on matzah during Passover.

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      • I have heard that. But I’ve also heard stories of some small group leaving Egypt so who knows…Behind every myth is some kernel of truth, and behind every fact is some myth.

        My parents didn’t even bother eliminating the bread!

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  5. Happy Passover, Amy. I’m sorry yours this year is shadowed, but I’m sure your dad was with you in a way.
    Since I don’t have any grandchildren, my 30-something children searched for the afikomen. I kid you not. I made it worth their while, of course.

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