by Lisa Berman, Mikveh and Education Director
It’s time to pack away this year’s Purim costume, try valiantly to clean up the glitter, put away the glue gun, and start thinking about Passover. Four weeks from tonight we’ll be sitting around our tables munching on parsley and waiting for our turn to come around in the Haggadah (Jewish text for the Passover seder).
I think there are two kinds of Passover people. There are those who need every single one of the hundreds of parts of the holiday to be exactly the same each year. Same Haggadot, same dried-out brisket, same tablecloth with faded wine stains, same hiding place for the afikomen. It makes them feel secure to know that this Jewish anchor of spring will be just the way they remember it. And really, isn’t this actually the definition of tradition? Something you can count on to be unchanging, as if you could open a dictionary in your mind and know just what will be there for a particular celebration or observance. What would a birthday be without cake, candles, wishes, singing, and presents? A seder’s sameness from year to year is part of its appeal, its resonance. We’re told to tell the story — the same story — of the Exodus and try to connect to its universal meaning to us.
But there are those who relish a different lens through which to engage with Passover each year, discovering something new and meaning-filled in a Haggadah we’ve never read before, gathering a different group of guests around our table, each with their own new contributions. Trying a completely different haroset devoid of walnuts or apples, or lounging on the floor around a tapestry-draped coffee table for the storytelling. Those of us with children have experienced the passing phases of seders as they went from 30 minute speedy fests before the kids had late night melt-downs, to negotiations with sulky teens about whether they had to come to Aunt Rachel’s this year at all.
I’ve been to dozens of seders, all dramatically different one from the other. There were my first seders with my then-boyfriend-soon-to-be-husband’s extended family where he and his brothers moved stealthily from the painful bridge chairs to the comfy couch and promptly went to sleep, leaving me at the table with a group of very hardcore male seder participants and a deer-in-the-headlights look on my face. There was the first seder I hosted in our own home when our youngest read “The Four Questions” for the first time and our oldest sang Pitchu Li, leaving not a dry eye around the table. There was the year we were the only guests at a seder who weren’t secular Israelis; we knew the traditions, they knew the Hebrew. There was the year that came to be known as “The ADHD Seder,” when our leaders took us on a wild ride of crazy activities and disconnected, fascinating discussions. Last year we swelled with pride as our daughter led the seder she had compiled herself — an interactive, creative, musical, spirit-filled experience.
Whether you are comforted by the sameness of tradition or jazzed by new interpretations, it isn’t always easy to dive deep into the explicit intention of the seder — to feel as if we were really there at the Exodus, to struggle with the concepts of freedom and independence, to understand the anxiety about the unknown as we emerged from slavery in Mitzrayim (the Hebrew name for Egypt, meaning “narrow place”). What does it mean to go from the narrow place? What are the narrow places in our lives?
To help you connect to these themes of the holiday, Mayyim Hayyim offers you a new Passover tradition: a tranquil, warm, private place to contemplate your journey — our mikveh. Yes, preparing for Passover is, for many, a very long to-do list. This year, try adding one more thing to the list: a visit to Mayyim Hayyim. Let go of the minutae of cleaning and cooking, and work on the bigger picture of striving for an expanded perspective. Leave your spiritual chametz behind.
It’s easy — just click here to make an appointment. We can’t wait to help you include a new Passover tradition this year — one that will make all the other ones even better.
Lisa Berman is Mayyim Hayyim’s Mikveh and Education Director.