This has been a weird Pesach. This was always going to be the first year that my family in Florida didn’t have a big seder: it’s the first year that my grandparents decided they couldn’t make the trip. But my father ended up in the hospital with pneumonia over erev chag, so they ended up not even having a small one. (he’s doing okay now)
I thought my juxtaposition to that was going to be that this was my first seder without any family at all, so that this way, both of them would be a bit less meaningful. Since I moved to Israel, I’ve spent every Pesach with my aunt and her family. This year I decided to have seder with friends instead. Which is a first. That these were religious friends was definitely a known thing, but that doesn’t mean I fully anticipated what it would be like.
I’m not really used to being clueless about anything. Even if I’m not an expert in whatever topic is at hand, in about any situation I’ll have some point of reference, some anchor. The big exception is religion. Even around people who aren’t horribly religious themselves, I tend to feel like a guy on a tricycle in the middle of the Tour De France.
But at the same time as this seder felt like the tricycle was on a Formula One track, it also felt somehow manageable. A good portion of that is because it was my first seder in six years that was conducted in English (by a real-live Englishman!). But what I realized, and this is the real juxtaposition between my seder and my parents’, was that while my parents didn’t have seder at all, mine was the most serious one I’d ever been to. “Serious,” of course, being a relative term. It was also the first seder I’d ever been to that ended with half the adults at the table making animal sounds.
It’s kind of amazing to do something for the twenty-fourth time in your life, but still have it feel like it’s your first. When I think about what was different that night from all other nights (I’m sorry, this is a Pesach post: I’m legally required to use at least one cliche) yes, it was also all of the things sung about by the two grown adults who happened to be the youngest at the table, but it was also different from every other seder I’d been to as well. The haggadot were actual haggadot, not photocopies of a couple different haggadot that were combined and may or may not have been re-stapled in the right order. And while I was grossly incapable of following most of the prayers, I was at least on the right page most of the time, and knew what was going on. And the seder went full-on until 12:30, but it didn’t *feel* long in the slightest. Those are all unusual things for me to be able to say about a seder.
I feel like I should somehow tie this in to the last time I spoke about religion, but I’m not sure how. While I have thought about religion and its role in both the world in general and my life specifically a lot since seder, I didn’t really come to any conclusions worth writing about, other than “it’s cool that I’ve got religious friends.” Which it is, even if they claim to smell. It’s interesting to see the other side, and it’s interesting to feel a part of the other side, even if it’s just as an observer. But sometimes there just isn’t quite as much to say about it as you’d have thought.