It is now that time of year for the wonderful spring holidays of Easter, Passover and Ramadan. Usually during these intergenerational holidays, we celebrate festivities with entire families, often remembering the rituals that have been shared for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years among our ancestors.
In my family, we celebrate Passover, which recalls Exodus, the story of Moses freeing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. For as long as I can remember, the Passover (or Pesach) celebration has been filled with family, food, friendship and much tradition. Generations join together to acknowledge not only the suffering of the Jews under Egyptian rule, but also share the joys of that victory. This year, even amidst a pandemic, the tradition continues, but it will be a Zoom Passover.
I have childhood memories of thirty-five to fifty of us: grandparents, aunts and uncles, parents, and cousins galore sitting around tables reading our own special parts of the Haggadah, the text required to be read on the first two nights of Passover. The Seder, meaning “order” of the service, represents intergenerational (and international) observance at its best. That is, my Seder recall has components shared from my grandfather’s experiences in Russia and my father’s shortened, but somewhat humorous interpretation of Pesach, as well as that of his brother’s. When my husband and I came of age and hosted Seders, they were much more egalitarian, with both men and women contributing to the service – each pointing out their own histories and stories, particularly as they relate to inequities of current times. Now our son, Adam, is leading the Seder in his own special way.
No matter the generational focus, part of the liturgy is to drink four glasses of wine, which can lead to laughter (and often dozing). There are certain other food requirements for Pesach as well: Matzah, karpas (any green vegetable), Maror (often horseradish to represent bitterness), and a shank bone on the Seder plate, symbolizing the Paschal lamb sacrificed in the Jerusalem temple.
There is a role for every age. Typically the youngest child at the table reads The Four Questions, which are meant to answer why is this night different from all other nights. This inquiry asks and answers why we observe these shared customs on Passover. One of the most interesting parts of the service for me is the reciting of the Ten Plagues, the disasters inflicted on Egypt to coerce the Pharaoh into allowing the Israelites to be freed from slavery.
Zoom Passover – adaptation and gratitude
This year is different. And that is of course, because we are in the middle of our own disastrous plague – a pandemic, COVID 19. This year, families will not be gathering at one of our homes together. People will not have the comfort of hugging each other or cooking together or attending congregation services to welcome in Passover. Rabbinic Councils have conceded to approve the irregular notion of using of live media to conduct our Seders. This year will be a Zoom Passover holiday, each of us in our separate homes, (one of the many new ways we are staying connected during this strange time). And we are grateful that it can at least be that way.
Hosting a virtual Seder? Here are a couple resources on a modernized virtual seder and tips from Hillel International.
Laurie Brock, Change AGEnt
Laurie has celebrated Passover for 70 years. She is currently a researcher and Change AGEnt for Changing the Narrative.
I was at Aunt Laurie’s seder via Zoom and the togetherness was a rare, fresh, heart-connected zing. To see the people we know so well & love so hard in their respective dining rooms, eating separately & lighting their own candles, as we lit ours — it was what we had this year. It was what we could do, & it was enough. It was a zing into the middle of the monotony of our quarantine & it was reflective, deepening, laugh-inducing. So much gratitude for the ability to gather intergenerationally & share this age-old family tradition.