Last night, my family and I sat down to Passover Seder, as we do every year. Despite the admitted complaining I did (I have a 6-month-old, I don't have time to cook and prepare the meal, everyone!), I enjoyed hosting the holiday at my house. We went through the Haggadah, said the traditional blessings and read the story of our ancestors' enslavement and exodus from Egypt. It's one of the few times a year that we all sit together and put our busy lives on hold to appreciate the freedom that we, as modern Jews, enjoy today. It is not rehearsed, nor is it memorized, but the word "Seder" literally translates to "order," which means the basics of the night do not vary year-to-year or table-to-table. My husband was born in Israel, and therefore is Sephardic, and my family is Ashkenazi. Even though there are small differences in our traditions, the big idea remains the same. Once we were slaves, and now we are free. We eat matzah, endure the bitter herbs and drink our four cups of wine.
So why was this Seder night different from all other Seder nights?
This year, my 6-month-old daughter joined us at the table for the first time. She sat happily in her high chair, taking it all in, even joining in a few of the prayers. OK, so maybe she wasn't intentionally praying, but her "chanting" during the Shechayanu was the most beautiful prayer I've ever heard. This Passover was her first major Jewish holiday. I sat there thinking about how many more Seders she will be a part of, how proud I'll be when she is the one reciting the four questions, and wondered if I'll be sitting at her table one day as she hosted. She behaved so well during the Seder that part of me believes she truly understood the magnitude of what was taking place. Babies can be pretty intuitive, after all!
Last night wasn't just special because it was a holiday; it was special because it was another opportunity for my husband and I to pass our beliefs and traditions down to our daughter. I wasn't raised in a very religious home, but we celebrated holidays, I attended Sunday school and I always have had a strong sense of my Jewish self. Last night reminded me of the importance of that. I want my child to be proud of her religious background and to view the holidays as a way to celebrate her heritage. By exposing her to this early, it is my hope that she embraces the traditions as those who have come before her have. The Kiddush cup that sat on our table once belonged to my grandparents, another symbol of how traditions are passed from one generation to the next. L'dor v'dor.
The last line in the Haggadah says, "Next year in Jerusalem," which can be interpreted many ways. To me, to my Jewish family, to my Israeli husband, it means that I hope our daughter knows her roots are far deeper than Houston, Texas.