April 10, 2004

Passing over

Passover is going to come and go and not even say hello. For the past few years some of my Buddhist/Jewish combo friends have gathered together for a seder. The first year I was invited was exhilarating for me. It was a small gathering. Three mixed (Jewish/Gentile) couples, their children, me and my dog Katie. We read the haggadah, ate, sang, laughed and talked about our relationships to religions. Each year the gathering grew until last year it felt like a farce, a comedy without meaning. Laughing at rather than enjoying the rituals. This year the seder is cancelled. Everyone is “too busy” or otherwise occupied.

When I was a child, we would go to my grandmother’s for the seder. I was usually the youngest and read the four questions. My uncle would also hint where they had hidden the matzo so that I would find it. The ceremony was long and tedious, the food interesting. I loved the egg in salt water and the charoset, of which I could never get enough.

I grew up in an semi-immigrant family (my father was born in Riga as was most of my mother’s family) that was trying to assimilate, be American. Being Jewish meant going to synagogue on the High Holidays and kissing my grandmother. As a child, what I studied about Judaism was frightening—wars with the Hitites, and wars with the Philistines and more struggles and more wars. I’ve never been fond of war, fighting, arguments.

Being the only Jewish family in our neighborhood, I learned that we were “different”. I never made peace with being Jewish until recently. I read a wonderful book, God Is Not In the Fire (I’ve since lent out the book and don’t remember the author’s name), given to me by a friend who felt it important that I embrace my spiritual past. It did give me new insight into and respect for the contemplative practices of the Jewish religion and a new pride in my heritage, which is why I wanted to have a seder with my friends. Maybe, if my parents had been more orthodox, I would still practice the Jewish religion. Probably not. I love rituals and am comfortable with my Buddhist practices.

Posted by leya at April 10, 2004 09:06 AM