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Reflections on a Passover Seder in 2017

By Nathan BraunApril 12, 2017

Passover Getty

This past Monday, for the first time in years, I sat down to a Passover Seder. I wish I could say that I had taken some profound path that had led me back to this traditional Jewish practice, but to be honest I didn’t even know when Passover fell this year until that prior Friday. The catalyst for the change was simply that a boss of mine had reached out to me, recognizing almost all my family was on the other side of the country, and invited me to join her family’s celebration. Both taken by her kind invitation and too terrified to attempt the religious apathetic excuses I use on my family to someone who could theoretically fire me, I found myself unexpectedly thrust into my first Seder as a “grown up”.
I specify grown up because sitting at my boss’s intimate family table, I was experiencing a Seder for the first time without being relegated to some incarnation of the “kid’s table.” Having three siblings and eight additional cousins capable of showing up, there was always some effort taken to place me off to the side where inevitably I’d end up too distracted or fixated on getting to the meal portion to pay much attention to the actual Seder. But now technically possessing adult-like accouterments like an apartment and a beard, my eyes were open wide enough to understand the real world baggage seeping its way into the service.
Like I’m sure occurred at many Seders across the country, the accounts of the Hebrews’ persecution and enslavement frequently left a quiet gut punch amongst me and my tablemates. Even the exultations of freedom stung amidst a Presidential administration that’s remaining four years seem like an inescapably menacing specter. When the Haggadahs had been placed away, talk would occasionally swing to what comes next for us? Would Democratic representatives be capable of resurrecting their party or combating our president’s aggressive impulses and could The Resistance stay motivated enough to stay a force against fascistic tendencies? I did what I could to provide my 20-something perspective on what I’d like to see, but there was no shaking the uncertainty of our future.
Still, even amidst the darkness facing our country, sitting as an invited guest as this table I could see glimmers of hope in the kindness that surrounded me. Outside of social conventions, there was no reason for me to be welcomed into this family home, but even so I was welcomed at every turn with friendliness and support. There was no judgment or pressure placed on me to conform to any ideals of how a young Jewish man should act, but instead they welcomed in this stranger simply to make sure he wouldn’t celebrate the festivities alone. It’s not an especially grand thing, but it gives me a reason to believe that even amidst the doubt and fear that lies ahead, no one’s truly cast out alone.