Ideally, the Jewish holidays are supposed to be about deep religious symbolism, usually something to do with surviving and being saved by God. But in reality, each holiday comes with its own baggage and modern-day choices.
Pesach should be about freedom from slavery, but in truth it’s often about cleaning and cooking, unless your family is lucky enough to be going to a hotel in Florida or Israel.
Now that I’m married, the holidays have become overwhelmingly about family; the family that is our parents and siblings, the family that is Jeremy and I and even the family that we hope to one day have.
Our foray into our first Pesach together as a married couple began with a conversation about where we would spend the Sedarim, or the Seders on the first two nights. As all Jews know, the first Seder is the real focal point of the holiday, but for Orthodox Jews, the holiday extends for another seven days beyond that. The last two days are also significant, and this year there’s even a Shabbat in between the “first days” and “second days,” so Jeremy and I had to split up the holiday as evenly as we could between our parents. As any newlywed or married couple can tell you, this is not easy or fun. We tried to skirt the whole issue by suggesting that we go to a friend’s family for the first two Seders, but let’s just say that made no one happy. So we were back to square one: three sets of holiday days (the Sedarim, Shabbat and the last two days of Passover) and two sets of parents. The math didn’t look good.
On the plus side, Jeremy and I made the decision, to our relief, that we wouldn’t be in our own apartment for the entire week of Pesach. That meant no cleaning and no scouring our floors for misplaced crumbs. We would probably be help out with the cooking at our parents’ houses, but we decided it was a fair exchange for their hosting us.
What this did mean, though, was that we would spend our first true holiday together not so together. Instead, it would be with loads of siblings and parents and grandparents and even a couple of (adorable) nephews. But Pesach is a holiday of family, and while we cherish our alone time, it is exciting to spend a meaningful holiday with family —especially since we would get to miss the stress of preparing for it.
We finally decided that we would spend the first days, and therefore the Sedarim, with Jeremy’s parents. In exchange, Jeremy suggested, we would spend Shabbat and the second days with my parents. Which is where our future family comes in.
I’ve realized that this holiday is no longer just about me and Jeremy, or even me and Jeremy and our families. As I anticipate the coming holiday, I also am wondering about the future. In my mind, I’m planning how we will celebrate the holiday when we have our own kids one day. How will Jeremy and I run our Seder? How will we involve our children and make them look forward to the Seder?
I’m enjoying the present with Jeremy, and looking forward to this holiday with family. It’s a difficult thing, to approach such a stressful holiday with a mindset of the intended message of it all. But by focusing on who I’ll be with, I find I’m able to see a glimmer of something meaningful amid the hubbub.
Simi Lichtman is a contributor to the Forward.
Our First Passover (Sort Of) Together