Saturday, April 3, 2010

Keep the Old, Seek the New

Chag Sameach, everyone. Happy 5th day of Pesach. I hope everyone is having an easy week, spending time with family, drinking lots of water, eating roughage, and keeping your egg intake to somewhere below the "ridiculous" level. My 12-year old son went shopping with me before our first night seder, and his jaw dropped when I put four dozen eggs in the cart. "The scary thing," I told him, "is that I worry these might not actually last the week." Never mind you Christians and your egg hunts this weekend. We've got hard boiled eggs, egg salads, cakes with a few eggs, cakes with lots of eggs, matzah ball soup, matzah brie, and kugel. The only thing we don't have is chemical colors, like Paas, although I'm thinking of doing something verrrry interesting with the matzahball soup next year.

Pesach is a time of rebirth, a celebration of Spring, so I think it important to remind everyone of the theme of renewal. Yes, yes, we all know about the theme of freedom and all that. However, I don't think we spend enough time thinking about the year to come. On Pesach, we clean up the house, clean up our pantry, clean out our intestines. OK, sorry about that last one. But the point is, now is when we take that moment to stop, refresh, reassess, reevaluate, and rejuvenate.

However, Pesach is all about balance...balance of the old and the new. Pesach is about tradition. The very idea of the seder is a retelling of a story thousands of years old, using a format hundreds of years old, using family traditions decades old. We end our seder with the line, "Next Year in Jerusalem," a statement that is not only religious and political, but also temporal. We might as well say, "Look ahead!"

So, this Pesach, look for some new traditions and recipes to complement the age old...and then establish them as your old traditions. For example, every year, our seder MUST serve a walnut-egg mock chopped liver, vegetarian matzah ball soup, and a Sephardic orange-date charoset. These are certainly not part of my upbringing, but my wife and I have done this for so long that they are now "old family traditions," and to break them would be messing with "shalom bayit" (peace in the house). And I wouldn't want to do that.

A couple of years ago, we incorporated an Iranian/Afghani/Italian custom of beating each other with green onions while singing Dayenu. No, Mom, I am not making this up. The kids love this tradition, because when else do I allow them to smack each other with food while singing? Now, I must preserve this tradition for all eternity or face a breach in shalom bayit. And who would want that?

Of course, old traditions are always new to someone, so I feel it is incumbent upon us to introduce our religion and traditions to those, Jewish or non-Jewish, who may not have experienced them. We invited a non-Jewish family to our seder; the mother was trying to introduce her three young children to the breadth and depth of ethnic traditions throughout the world. After all the singing, the Hebrew, the symbolism, the meal, the afikomen hunt resulting in 3 gold dollar coins, her 6-year old son reported to his mother his favorite part of the evening. "We got to hit people with food!"

Final note: The seder plate in the picture was made for us a decade ago by our friend Meg Levine, a wonderful ceramicist and graphic artist. Meg, if you're out there, thank you. We are still using your plate every year. We both insist on it, which is a good thing because it maintains shalom bayit. And we are all about that.


  1. Great seder. And great blog. BTW, I Googled Meg Levine and the second URL down has a picture. Is that her?

  2. This big white space won't go away. Help.

  3. thank you for you to make me learn more,thank you∩0∩ ........................................