A Shiksa’s Seder

Whilst Monday marked the first night of Passover, it also marked my first Passover experience.

What prompted the impromptu commemoration of this Jewish holiday for yours truly? It dates back some three years. A dear friend of mine suggested I attend his family’s celebration which reflects on how their ancestors were freed from slavery in Egypt. The actual attending did not materialize until this evening past.

How does a born and bred Catholic prepare for such an event? Naturally, my first inclination was to re-watch “Seder Anything” from season 2 of Gossip Girl. The teen drama quite adequately depicted what I was in for– from the praying, spilling of wine, bitter herbs, to the cup of Elijah.

I was rather nervous at the outset wondering whether this goy (a non-Jew) would embarrass herself. I must say, I was welcomed with open arms and thrust into stories that deeply intertwined with ones from my own upbringing.

As members of the Biblical faiths, our beginnings differ ever so slightly. Judaism’s Old Testament makes up a sizable component of Christianity’s Holy Bible; which merges the Old Testament with the New Testament. Therefore, much of what was said was not new to me. It was, however, said in Hebrew, but the English translation was graciously provided in the Haggadah (which means “telling” in Hebrew). The Haggadah is the text that sets forth the order of the Passover Seder.

My friend felt the need to forewarn me of what was to transpire at this intimate family gathering. For example, singing and eating of unleavened bread, also known as matzoh. To be honest, I felt right at home. The only moral dilemma I encountered was not a crisis of the faiths, but rather a violation of my own personal commandment: Thou shalt not eat complex carbohydrates after lunchtime. As I sat around the table I marvelled at what went on, (and joined in, thanks to the phonetically spelled Hebrew passages at the end of the Haggadah).

Sunday, Christians everywhere will celebrate Easter by honouring the resurrection of Christ. Many Christians attend mass on Easter eve or morning. To my discredit, I have failed to attend mass on many an occasion. None the less, what was most striking about my jaunt with Judaism is the utter lack of narrative present during our Easter feast. We do not recount stories from times gone by or recite passages from the Bible. Mostly, we just eat, continue to eat and perhaps share some of our chocolate.

On Passover we ask “Why is this night different from all other nights?” For Christians, or rather my family in particular on Easter, there isn’t a great deal of difference from any other night. It is simply a time for my extended family to come together, bask in each other’s presence and my grandmother’s righteous cooking. In my opinion, it is as good a reason as any.

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