I have been abnormally lucky throughout my life that this experience of the "other" Pesach has luckily been closer to my norm. Every other year or so my family travels to Israel to join my Ima's relatives for their form of Pesach, and each time we are together in Israel, I can't help but compare it to what I am used to back home. The family over here is large and diverse and every other year they switch between my uncle and aunt's house, where they host a seder closer to the kibbutz experience of their childhood, and my aunt's brother's home, where they hold their unique version of an Iraqi seder. At my uncle and aunt's the defining features are my uncle's salted fish, which is actually my great-grandmother's salted fish, which he buys from the same butcher where my Savta (grandmother) bought them decades before. It is full of tiny, tiny bones I have learned over the years to pick through and while I will never be an expert like my cousins on this side of the ocean, I think I can say that I have certainly improved over time. The fish is cut into spheres of delicious, cold, jelly and carrot-topped goodness that we dip into a shock of red horseradish and wash down with dry Israeli wine. My family also always comes up with an interesting twist, always asking each participant to think of something new. One year we were each to go around and talk about our favorite line from the Hagaddah and what it means to us. Another year we were given pieces of paper to write what we want to renew for the coming year, during this spring and harvest. And always there is the song of the children from the wheat fields, where they go to pick the first harvest and dance with the wheat stalks, always there is a speech from my Saba, always there is incredible food on a beautifully decorated table filled with family heirlooms from the 1700's from the Warburg side, and it always culminates in my uncle leading the way into hours of song, red-faced and eye-squinted as his beautiful baritone trembles through the air. The guests of this kibbutz seder had all been in the kibbutz choir in their childhood and thus beautiful harmonies float about.
|Flowers of Petra|
|The way I've always imagined the burning bush...|
|Me in the bedouin tent|
|This year's Iraqi Seder|
|Bringing of the omer|
|More heirlooms from the 1700's|
|Hitting my head against the wall for an egg...|
|The date and honey haroset is in the bowl, hillel sandwhich on the matzah|
|Our family's famous salted fish|
|With my adorable cousin|
|My incredible parents|
|My Ima with her walnuts!|
|Singing for walnuts|
Today we had lunch with more of my uncle's salted fish in my Saba's (grandfather's) home back on the kibbutz, where my aunt asked why we celebrate a story that happened thousands of years ago. We're still here, aren't we, she affirmed, so what is the point? Each of us has to interpret our own meaning of this beautiful holiday, but I think my father's answer was both eloquent and worth sharing:
We read that once we were slaves in Egypt and now we are freed. But really, in each of our own lives, we find ourselves enslaved to many things. They can be petty, like our cell phones, or larger, like an addiction, and most of us our enslaved to much more than just one thing. But during this time when we reflect on how we were freed and are encouraged to ask questions, it is also the harvest, the holiday of spring, and the time of renewal. May we all, in each of our own ways, find the strength to partake in the real work in the spring of renewal in our own lives now that the seder has passed. May we, as my father said, aim to be more like the modest, simple, plain matzah and less like the pretentious, bloated, and bitterness that can come from chametz, and find for each of us, a path of strength, beauty, celebration, and renewal.