Three Ladies- Three Lattes: Sizzling at the Seder

Some holiday of freedom, when we are enslaved to customs that are so divisive.

Rice (photo credit: DIAKO1971/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
(photo credit: DIAKO1971/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
I’m an olah of 20 years. My children have married the United Nations – a Persian, a Yemenite, a Russian and a South African. I slave, year in and year out, to make a Seder that some of my kids won’t attend due to differing minhagim [customs]. So minhagim should trump family? Eating or not eating rice should come before a bubbe? Some holiday of freedom, when we are enslaved to customs that are so divisive. Thoughts, ladies?
—Fuming at Sinai, M.
Pam Peled:
I belong to a Knesset lobby against religious coercion run by the wonderful MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid). Lavie is religious, as is Rachel Azaria (Kulanu), who related the following: Hours before last year’s Seder, the mashgiah (kashrut supervisor) turned up at the kosher hotel where Azaria was staying and declared the oven not fit for Passover. The shocked chef reported having followed the purifying instructions to the letter. It then transpired that that particular type of oven could not be kosher for Passover unless the chef slipped the custodian of our culinary morals NIS 500 in cash, under the (now kosher) counter. “I didn’t know whether to be sadder about the corruption,” recounted Azaria, “or that I’d eaten from a nonkosher oven.”
I change my plates and spoons and cups for Passover. I think it’s important and uplifting to adhere to ancient rituals, whether or not we believe they’re God-ordained. But when things go crazy, and we can’t see the kneidlach for the kitniyot, we lose the plot.
I don’t get many things about this cleanfest of a hag. A central feature of Passover is spring cleaning, right? Cleanliness next to Godliness and all? But religious people often leave their homes for the duration and eat in kosher hotels (or kosher-after-corruption).
And they don’t clean their kitchens at all. Can that be right? Cook your food your way; invite all; let their complaints flow over you like the Red Sea waters. In this topsy-turvy reality, you’re never going to win. Enjoy what you can.
Tzippi Sha-ked:
I would say: “Let them eat cake!” but then we’re back to square one: kitniyot or kitniyot-free? Sigh. Your children are grown up, with kids and minhagim of their own. Here’s my advice: Tell them we don’t need an app that adds divisiveness to an already divided nation; we need to reboot.
With deference to the Facebook group Kitniyot Liberation Front, I propose we create a group called Hametz Liberation Front. We’ll employ it to broaden the definition of hametz to include rancor, pettiness, poor attitudes, moodiness and the unfortunate substitution of custom for Halacha. The centrality of Passover is the family, the Haggada, our collective story, symbols on the Seder plate – not the main course. Should we opt for a table laden with Persian rice or a hummus-less banquet at the expense of family unity? That’s nuts, and not the kind in haroset (though the symbolism might be pertinent!).
Speaking of nuts, last year I spotted a Tel Aviv restaurant sporting a “Hametz-free for Passover” sign – but the menu boasted fresh lobster! There’s a lot of national cognitive dissonance around holidays, not only in your family.
So whatcha gonna do? You need to make do. Tell your brood to gather their legumes or non-gebrochts eatables and pack up their reservations about Ashkenazi/Sephardi/Persian or Ethiopian Seders. Ask them to leave their discomfort, drama and opinions at home and simply come. You, meanwhile, should start on your four cups of wine early. Hag same’ah!
Danit Shemesh:
Pirkei Avot asks us to “know from whence you came and where you are going, and to Whom you are ultimately obligated.” The linking of roots and wings communicates the need to be connected to tradition before one can self-actualize and make choices. Passover is the roots, the “from whence you came.” It is the telling of our story (not his story), the fabric from which we were all cut. Parents tell children that God liberated us from enslavement so that the children will understand that they are expected to be free.
While it’s important to uphold tradition, it’s no less important to have ahva, a loving family dynamic. Your son’s spiritual choices do not need to come between you. You could choose to view him as having special tastes, as though he were gluten sensitive; then you will not feel hurt by his request.
The emotional charge of feeling rejected by his behaviors is your interpretation, not necessarily what he means.
You are also welcome to change your point of view. Passover is about liberation from what enslaves us, especially the pictures we paint in our mind of what reality should be. Your relationship could even be strengthened if you allow him to spread his wings.
Please remember that we clean the house also as a metaphor for cleaning our spirit of the residue of slavery. Besides looking for bread crumbs, we’re looking to clean our inner experience of life. To “know... to Whom you are ultimately obligated” means to choose who you are at any given moment.
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