This year for the first time in many years I hosted two seders for my family. I hadn’t expected to since helping to ready the Shomrei kitchen for Passover, cleaning my own house and then preparing 4 or 5 kiddush lunches during the eight days of Passover, left me little time to host my own seder.
But as we all know, this year was different.
Other years, I would open the dining room table, add a few leaves so that our guests would have plenty of space, cover the table with a cloth given to me by my mother, set it with my mother-in law’s silver and my grandmother’s crystal, and serve on my mother’s special Passover china. And we would tell stories about each of these people.
This year, we sat at the kitchen table, covered with a simple cloth and used glass dishes and everyday stainless. There were only two of us, so no need for all that extra space.
This year the menu was simple. After all, there were only two of us. Why did we need so much food? And there was no longer a dog to lap up the crumbs.
Other years, I would have spent days scouring many haggadot and searching the internet for just the right readings for the seder service itself.
Other years, we would greet each other with hugs and kisses and sit around the table with friends and family, turning to each as he or she read or said something interesting.
But this year, we sat in front of our phones and iPads, muting and unmuting, sharing screens rather than a table together.
But despite those differences, the seders were wonderful. We focused, we talked, we sang. While my brothers and I, my nephew and my children were not even the same state-we were together for the first time in many, many years. What we thought would be a brief reading of the haggadah, turned into a full evening as we talked and then ate dinner together, in our own spaces, but together in spirit.
For the second seder, to accommodate my daughter and her family in France (and let me “attend” Rabbi Greenstein’s seder, too), we arranged to meet online at 12:30 EDT and 6:30 French time, lunch for us and dinner for them. Marc and I had never spent Passover with Rebecca and her family. But Covid-19 gave us that opportunity. We listened to the four questions asked by our grandchildren and later saw them smash hard-boiled eggs on their foreheads, a custom that they thought up and is now part of their Passover ritual.
I learned that flexibility has its rewards and sharing an experience, by whatever means, has great value.
Certainly I am scared of this virus; I certainly would prefer that we were not suffering as individuals, as a community and as a nation, and I weep for them, but sometimes tragic situations present unique opportunities.
Next year, I pray, we will be back to normal: I’ll be preparing kiddush at Shomrei and be a guest at someone else’s seder and look back on this as the year misfortune enabled us to be together apart.