Flying for family?

Maybe you can shed some light on why I feel duty-bound to come. Should I?

A Passover Seder (photo credit: JERUSALEM POST ARCHIVE)
A Passover Seder
Hello ladies, I’m a 35-year-old single man living in Los Angeles. My Zionist mother is very disappointed that I didn’t come to Israel to visit her for Passover and wants me to already book a ticket for Rosh Hashana. To be honest, a week-long trip is nothing but a hassle and disturbance of my busy life. Maybe you can shed some light on why I feel duty-bound to come. Should I?
Better to be in LA
Tzippi Sha-ked:
About 20 years ago, in Los Angeles, my family adopted Russian Jewish families who’d recently moved to the new Goldene Medina – California. They’d arrived from the Soviet Union starry-eyed and hopeful, relegating the bitter taste of religious and political oppression to memory banks.
We invited them for holidays and Shabbatot and suggested they enroll their children in Jewish learning programs. All too soon we realized our new friends were eager to shed visible Jewish skin and assimilate into the greater American culture.
“We’ve had enough of the stigma of being Jewish in the Soviet Union. Our goal is to be American, like everyone else,” they said. They chose to defect from their birth country and their religious birthright. Instead of using newfound freedoms to resume a long-stifled discourse with generations past, they opted for assimilation.
On a brighter note, according to last year’s Pew report, 67% of American secular Jews attended a Passover Seder; the figures in Israel were even higher. Still, it is a tragedy that 30% are “Seder defectors.” Even American presidents usually attend one!
Implicit in your question is the burden of this Jewish ‘yoke’ – and, yes, the yoke is there. But it comes with a bonus: the Seder promotes family, national and personal connectivity. Attend the Seder “plugged in.” Read Rabbi David Fohrman’s The Exodus You Almost Passed Over. Create a sense of belonging in your mind and actions: deeds shape the heart.
This year attend a Seder in LA, maybe next year in Jerusalem. Rosh Hashana is another chance to sit together around a happy table.
Danit Shemesh:
The Jewish calendar is like good therapy. It presents existential questions of purpose, awareness, inspiration, happiness, death, birth. Passover speaks to the idea of liberation. From what do we need liberation?
When we define ourselves and our worth via our achievements/name/ honor, we enslave ourselves to an external point of view, seeing ourselves through the eyes of others. Egypt exemplified appearances, an absolute dependence on the worldview.
Passover reminds us that although we work hard at achieving goals, there is an ultimate benevolent Boss who will redeem us from our constricted vision of life. Our perspective is narrow and egocentric. The ability to look beyond ourselves and see the bigger picture of the good and miraculous is true liberation.
Once we are free from the shackles of the material race (which slavery in Egypt represents), we can open our eyes and see the family that embraces us. We eat a roasted leg of lamb together on Passover (rather than boiled) to signify the dense state of being of our nation; we’re a unit, not just a collection of people. Our nation was born emerging from the split Red Sea, the birth canal. We suffer together and enjoy the same history, the same fate. While we are individuals, we are also a gestalt, part of something bigger.
The day you prioritize the metaphysical in your life, and live a life of faith in the miraculous, is the day you’ll see the ‘why’ of Passover. You alone will book the flight each year and read the Haggada to your children in your mother’s home.
Pam Peled:
I just turned 60 this month and I would say, with the prerogative of advanced age: Get a life! You grow old, you sit around a festive table with your family and you realize: this is what it’s all about.
What can you be so busy with? Will another business deal be what you remember as you hit milestones in your life to come? Or will you miss your “Zionist” mom, whom you never found time to visit enough?
Here’s the thing about Jewish ritual when it’s not imposed: it’s not a “yoke.” Even if you believe God’s a figment of a deranged collective mind, or you have no interest in religion, rituals give a rhythm to life, a pulse, fun times, festivities. Gathering round the Passover table and singing the well-loved songs each year, as new generations take over the questions and young parents turn into grandparents, is what makes life well-nigh divine, no matter what you think of the Divine.
I will tell you something else that I’ve gleaned in a life well lived: you never bloody know what tomorrow holds. Grab your time with healthy parents, Zionist or not, and celebrate whatever reason is out there while you can. Money and business deals don’t grow old or get cancer – people do. That’s what’s so great about the holidays; we get the chance to mellow with family and smell the (kosher-for-Passover) coffee.
You’ve missed Passover this year: Book that plane ticket and count your blessings!
Hag sameah to us all, in health and joy.
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