Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Non-Traditional Pesach: The Report, A Wee Bit Late

I ended up at two seders this year, instead of the one as I had originally thought.

Neither seder was Orthodox and one was a lot less traditional than what I'm used to. The former was Conservative/Traditional; the latter involved a hike out into a huge, open field (in imitation of the Exodus) and lots of talk about EcoJudaism (which I appreciate, in theory, though I don't really always see as clear a corrolation to traditional Judaism as proponents of the movement seem to espouse).

After that, I didn't keep kosher for Passover. Sure, I ate some matzah, even a macaroon or two. But I also ate bread and bread-related products.

For me, this was almost a test: what does it feel like if I completely my own ties with Orthodoxy?

It was a pretty extreme move for me, because no matter how un-Orthodox I've been in the past, I've always cleaned my house for Passover, almost always at least made the effort to keep kosher for Passover (I think I'd cheated on that front once or twice), and always gone to Orthodox seders.

And that first bite of bread, to be honest, made me feel a little bit weird. As did the fact that when I got to my kitchen initially, there was chametz all over the place. But the weirdness quickly subsided and, after the first day, it didn't even phase me.

Which isn't to say that I forgot it was Passover. On the contrary, I remembered pretty clearly. And the non-Traditional seders were much more memorable and interesting than any Orthodox seder I've ever been to (though I will not presume that there aren't many Orthodox seders that far surpass those I've been to, in terms of being interesting).

The "Eco-Seder," in particular, was truly fascinating for me. I liked the way that it gave new meaning to the same paragraphs I've read over and over again, year after year. The seder felt fresh and new, which was really cool. And there was something particularly awesome about starting the seder out in the outdoors (we moved inside after "Avadim Hayinu").

Plus, the questions, connections, and insights people came up with were really thought-provoking. It felt alive.

This stands in stark contrast to the seders I've had with my family in the past, where my dad/siblings will read the same D'var Torahs written on the bottom of their hagaddot at every seder for years. It never really felt dynamic to me. (Again, this is in no way meant to suggest that all Orthodox seders are similarly boring.)

Pesach has long been one of my least favorite of the Jewish holidays (second only to fast days) - the seders dragging on for hours when it seems even those "expounding upon" the text aren't even interested in what they're saying, the unpleasantness of eating a matzah & potato starch diet for eight days...

This year, non-traditional though it may have been, I actually enjoyed it.