I just invited more than 30 family members to a Passover Seder. The responses are trickling in slowly but surely. The youngest will be about two months old and the oldest 99.
No, we won’t be opening our actual door for anyone other than Elijah. This, dear reader, is our first Virtual Seder.
This year’s invitation for a traditional Passover get-together originally was issued by my uncles. Our family planned to travel from New Jersey up to their cozy mid-century home in Peterborough, N.H.. Others were to make the trek from Vermont and Massachusetts. The setting promised to be resplendent with ceiling-to-table decorations (there was talk of floating cherubs in puffy cotton clouds), and a multi-course meal that would last for hours.
Then, just like that, our Passover was canceled. The unhappy emojis flooded our family group-text.
The new normal set in swiftly and uncomfortably. My own family of four now all under one roof, carving out individual workspaces, sometimes with the T.V. news as background noise. We open our emails only to see all the upcoming activities get postponed or flat-out canceled, consciously realizing just how much stuff we regularly crammed into our happily hectic lives. Dayenu!
I am a Bnei Mitzvah tutor who has turned on-site visits with students into FaceTime sessions. My weekly fifth-grade religious-school class at a local synagogue is now on Zoom. This is good.It required me to get showered, dress and do my hair. I started to feel connected and in control. Most of all, I felt inspired.
Then the aha moment washed over me. Passover with the family doesn’t have to be canceled. We will use technology to get everyone on the same virtual page. We’ll share a Haggadah over strong Wifi signals. We will all recline comfortably, as one does at this celebration, in groups or in pairs or individually, isolated in our homes, collectively at our devices. The glow from our screens will invite us to connect in a way that we’ve never done before.
I gratefully anticipate the normal antics that happen at our “traditional” family seder. The politically-charged readings. The cringe-worthy jokes. The debates over who makes the most tender brisket, the most savory matzah ball soup or the sweetest macaroons. The predictable Covid-19 references when we get to the Ten Plagues. Someone asleep at the table.
And there will be the inevitable workarounds for missing ingredients. Do daffodils on the seder plate suffice as spring greens? Can we call the kids’ English homework the bitter verbs? Will I be able to make my own matzah that is as good as the Yehudah brand that I can’t find anywhere on store shelves? Will my sons be grateful for the absence of gefilte fish this year?
Mah nishtanah ha laila hazeh mikol halaylot? Why is this night different from all other nights? On April 8, the answers will be clear as Purell.
Cara Moroze lives in Montclair, N.J.
Our Passover is not canceled. But it will be different from all other Passovers.
Our Passover is not canceled. But it will be different.