A few weeks ago, while my daughter attended her Sunday school class, I sat in on a meeting with the rabbi on how to make the Passover seder more accessible to your attendees. Most parents were there to learn how to make the seder less boring, more fun, for the kids. The rabbi gave lots of good ideas — toys, games, costumes, decorations. I liked her ideas, but our family always focuses holiday celebrations on the kids, especially when it comes to religious celebrations. It’s our way of repressing the discomfort of facing the question of God and the force of spirituality in our lives. Legitimately, we have a lot of religious conflict around the table, with members coming from different backgrounds, different religious worlds. The older generation has agreed on a don’t ask, don’t tell policy, and for them the seder is just another opportunity to see the grandkids. Giving the kids candy and games, eating a nice dinner, and wiping our hands of the religious side covers our responsibilities without making anyone uncomfortable.
Now, at the meeting, the rabbi brought up an idea that stuck with me. She asked what the matzoh represents. Of course the traditional answer is that is symbolizes the Jews’ escape from slavery in Egypt. But the rabbi took the time to suggest an alternate reading, that our eating of matzoh as Jews is an opportunity to focus on the essential parts of ourselves. A meditation, without ego or the commotion of expectations. What things most make us us? What work do we need to do internally to uncover that essence?
I believe that when you have an existential question, the universe puts answers in your path. Or maybe that the answers are always in front of us, like clues, but you have to ask the right questions to unlock their meanings. This year, for the first time in my life, I enjoyed my matzoh.
Maybe by next year I’ll work up the nerve to share it with the rest of the family.