How the pandemic has allowed us to lean in to the true meaning of Passover

What e-Seders help zoom into focus

New Traditions Passover olives image

"Dayenu" is a word I use creatively all year round with my colleagues and friends (we didn't get everything we wanted done this day/week/month, but dayenu-- it was enough). It's also a word that keeps Passover consistently present in my mind, and it's a concept that has taken on different and greater meaning for me over this last year. 
 
My Seder plate is actually a combination of two plates-in order to accommodate all the additional ritual items I bring to the table. After all, I'm a sucker for symbolism. Similarly, my table tends to end up being two tables, or the long dining table and people on the couch and chairs in the living room. In the words of country music group The Highwomen, "I want a house with a crowded table/ And a place by the fire for everyone." I also tend to be one of those people who find a way to fit in three or four Seders each year. 
 
Yet, this past year taught many of us, myself included, that we had to radically alter our Passover traditions if we wanted them to survive. Some of us didn't; it felt too hard. To be honest, last Passover I said, "Next year in person," only attended one Zoom Seder-- and dayenu. 
 
And yet, attending one virtual Passover celebration meant more to me than my marathon Pesach observance of years past. As much as I love the act of hosting, the theater of the celebration of liberation, I often let it be just that-- a good show. I'm usually too busy-- making sure people have their next wine glass ready, explaining when they can start eating the crudités, or worrying if my non-Jewish guests are bored out of their minds- to actually focus on the message of the Passover story and to take the time and reflect on how liberation and injustice show up in my own life. 

Last year also led many people to realize they would have to step up and host if they wanted Passover to happen for them or their families. We at OneTable launched Seder2020 to help people connect over distance. We saw many young adults taking the lead-- organizing their parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, and not only keep tradition alive, but find new ways to connect with one another through ancient Jewish ritual. We also saw people observe the holiday with friends and family who lived far away, who they hadn't "done Jewish" with for many years. We heard how meaningful it was to be able to dream about freedom with their distant loved ones. 
 
So, when bringing new traditions to the Passover table, when considering what to add to the Seder plate, or who to invite to the holiday, maybe our new tradition can be to ask "what is enough?" What will allow each of us to truly lean into the rituals and ceremony, to connect the flight from the narrow place-from enslavement-to our own lives? What more should we be doing, and what should we do less? Let's not just say dayenu, but know truly that we've made meaning out of our time. 

Al Rosenberg is Chief Strategy Officer of OneTable.

 



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