Rabbis Without Borders
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Celebrating Passover as a parent is a whole different experience. When I was in rabbinical school it was all about the rules: seder did not start until the set time (to my husband’s dismay) and we did the entire thing from start to finish mostly in Hebrew. When my husband and I got married he asked how long our seders were (let’s say he was not pleasantly surprised when he had to wait sooooo long to eat). Seders were supposed to be long, intense, and thought-provoking. And lots of drinking. It was a serious and awesome time.
Enter my 4 and 2 year old children. Passover is no longer about the long intense seders with lots of wine. Seders are about toy plagues, overpriced sticky frogs with tongues that pop out, plague masks, and figuring out how to explain the 10th plague to toddlers. When my 4 year old daughter (who is Pesach obsessed this year to my absolute delight) said “Mama, why didn’t the Jewish people just turn on the lights when God turned them off? My heart exploded. I was so proud that she was thinking about the plagues and that she actually got what they were and was thinking critically (as much as that is possible at 4) well, I was schepping major nachas.
Parenting during Pesach is a totally different experience as well. For those of us who have kids, or go to seders where there are kids, it is a different beast. First, since my kids’ favorite food group is carbs, the no pasta deal is like the 11th plague. My 4 year old daughter can grapple with the plagues-but take away her mac and cheese? She becomes a monster. Which, I can honestly totally relate to as a carb-loving mama myself.
I have always been very serious about Pesach-so how do we still have a meaningful Pesach and seder experience while entertaining young kids (and hungry spouses?)
This year, however, I see Pesach in a different light. I see it through my 4 year old’s eyes. She comes home every day from school and is singing the Four Questions and Dayeinu. I came into the family room and she had workout mats on the floor and was Moses reenacting the miracle of the Red Sea. My 2 year old wanted to play too, and my 4 year old yelled: “Get out of the sea G, you are not the Jewish people!” To which I explained that yes, she is Jewish and that we are all supposed to feel as though we were there. She said she was pretending to be there, so that is close enough right? She was actually fulfilling the mitzvah of acting as though she had been in Egypt. Heart explosion #2.
Pesach for me is about family-and celebrating our people’s history and freedom. It is about coming together from our individual lives, schedules, our own mitzrayim and becoming a community, coming together as a family. We are breaking out of our own struggles, stress, and daily life to have a moment in time where we celebrate our freedom-together. What is more beautiful than that? In a world where we are rushing from work to pickups to doctors appointments and yoga classes, we don’t often find the time to stop, as I often write about in my Rabbi Mom blog. Pesach is one of my favorite holidays because it forces us to pause and really think about coming together with those we love. It puts our struggles-our pain, our mitzrayim on the backburner for one night (or two) and obligates us to celebrate our freedom. It is a gift.
So while I sometimes wish our Seders had more content, more discussion or grappling with text, I wouldn’t trade wearing plague masks or playing with sticky frogs for anything. I am celebrating my favorite holiday with my favorite people and one of my favorite little people actually gets it. What could be better than that? Plus we get to eat and go to bed earlier-so it’s a win-win all around.
I challenge each of us to look at Pesach through our own children’s eyes, or through the eyes of other children we celebrate with. Still blissfully unaware of all the hate and pain in the world, they see the pure heart and soul of Pesach-and of being together. Let us each, if just for one or two nights-enjoy the miracles of our people and enjoy the company of those we share it with. Let us enjoy the holiday of our freedom because today, as we know, so many do not have that same luxury and are stuck in their own mitzrayim. Let us teach our children that there are many people suffering and it is our responsibility to protect and fight for other peoples’ rights. Let us celebrate and teach our children the values of the Pesach story. I for one will be covered in sticky frogs and fingers, and probably be sporting the 10th plague on my face while doing it. But hey, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Wishing you and your families a Chag Pesach Sameach.