My year is marked not by the Gregorian calendar, but by the Jewish holidays. I spent my primary and secondary schooling at Schechter; we would have school sleepovers in the sukkah, tortured our parents with a lengthy Chanukah production, and always had off for the holidays. I am so lucky that I never was made to feel like an outsider for being Jewish. Thus, I grew up loving my religion and practice, living a blissful childhood sans semitic shame.
Like many children, I didn’t always appreciate this in the moment. Now, approaching my adulthood, tasked with having to make meaning of my spirituality for myself, I realize that my childhood spent in this Jewish oasis was idyllic. My community was small and the education was-for the most part-excellent. I only realize now that I am extremely lucky for this Jewish education. Of course, we were taught all the secular subjects. However, some of the most important learning I did was in the dreaded Rabbinics and Torah classes. From a very early age, we were tasked to analyze texts, argue our values, and translate passages. Most kids these days emerge from elementary school with unused notebooks and a social complex.
I grew up in the synagogue. Not because my parents are particularly religious per se, but because it gave us a backbone to our lives and a river for our souls. I know now that I feel the change from balmy summer winds to crisp autumn air as “High Holiday Season.” There is actually a distinct smell in the New England air that marks this association, for me. One of my favorite things about the Jewish holidays is that many of them are centered around the seasons. There is something so beautiful and practical about this–heeding our G-d and the planet that we all inhabit.
It is Pesach. I mentioned in a recent interview I did for First Generation Fashion that I love the Jewish holidays for the “traditions of transition.” There is a mindfulness practice in this celebration of the seasons. Judaism acknowledges change, both personal and planet. We are flowing rivers, time does not stop. I believe that one of the reasons I feel my holidays is for the fact that they stand as seasons, making markers for reflection. Who am I? What am I? How can I be better for myself and for others? What can I do more? What can I do less?
Pesach is important because it marks the spring. It also is the celebration of freedom, our Exodus from Egypt. A lot of Judaism is symbols; we make metaphors and meanings. Sometimes there is more than one meaning. Many times, there is a practical meaning and a spiritual meaning. The idea of the korban pesach or Passover sacrifice (“offering” if you will) speaks directly to our deliverance from slavery. The concept of renewal and the spring season are also prominently featured on the seder plate, not always explicitly mentioned in the practical symbolism (see image below).
My favorite part of the Seder (the feast) is the Four Sons. My younger brother was always Chacham (the wise son…if you’ve met him, you know why). I always read Rasha (the wicked son…since, again, I was obstinate and oppositional like a pint-sized Empress). My favorite, as an adult, and the child I hope to have, is the sh’eino yodea lishol (the child who does not know how to ask). Why? There is another son I did not mention, the simple son. Why would there be a distinction between the two latter sons? If the one who does not know how to ask is simply…simple…then why is there a difference here? I believe there is an implied “yet” worked into the son who does not know hot to ask. He is the son that takes a bit longer to observe before he makes a judgement. He is the son who knows what he doesn’t know and in time, can ask for help when he needs it.
All in all, I am writing this post for my family. The family I have now and the family I hope to have one day. Pesach, above any religious reasons, is a time for family.