By Rabbi Philip Warmflash, Executive Director
Pesah is a celebration of journeys: the journey of the plates from the basement to the kitchen, the multiple journeys to the stores to purchase food items that we would not think of eating the rest of the year. The journey of friends and family coming to celebrate with us. And, of course, as we sit around the table next Friday night, we will tell the story that is the archetype of all journey stories — of a group of slaves through an open sea into freedom and nationhood. These are the journeys that are told and retold year after year.
This year as we prepare for the seder, I am keenly aware of another journey, a more personal journey: the journey that brought me from the end of the kids table at my aunt’s house, to the head of the table in my own house. During this past year in my family we have lost the last of the older generation, and we, my wife, her sister, and I, now sit in that place at the seder table and in our families. It was a journey that happened too quickly, too soon. It is a journey that reminds me, despite the amount of preparation that goes into it, of how precious each seder experience is — each year standing on the banks of the Red Sea preparing to take the next step toward freedom. But before taking that step each year, I try to remember to stop, to look around, and to notice how the faces of those who surround me have changed since last year. I see the children I have watched grow up around our table; members of my family of origin and my family of choice who have taken this journey with me so many times before; and I see, and am aware of, those who are no longer alive but whose examples will always serve as a guide to me on this journey.
So, let me make two suggestions for your seder this year:
- Consider asking each person to share something special that happened to them since the last time they stood on the banks of the sea, their “Exodus moment.”
- Give each person a small square of colored paper. On it, ask them to write the name of someone whom they wish could be at the seder tonight. Share the names and, perhaps, a story about each. Finally, put all of the pieces of paper around the base of your Elijah’s cup. In this symbolic way, each of those people is giving us the strength to cross the sea again and to hope for a bright future.
- Additional resources for your seder can be found here.
I want to wish each of you happy, meaningful seders.