The Sunday before Passover I sent a note to my family asking if they may be interested in a family zoom seder. I promised no more than a half hour. Passover is my favorite holiday and being sheltered alone, I needed some kind of holiday. To my surprise, 90% agreed. My immediate family is twenty five people. Though my friends reserve a place at my seder table a year in advance, my family will argue to only eat and no actual seder. My house, my rules and I force the seder.
And then my mother died Monday morning. The rules around funerals are strict right now; graveside burial and only immediate family. My family is scattered all around the country and, with travel restrictions, only six members could be present for the burial. There were none of my mother’s friends, none of our dozens of cousins, none of the hugs and kisses from family and friends. Rabbi Greenstein did a wonderful service which gave my family, who we face timed, some sense of peace.
Pesach supersedes Shiva. My family all agreed to zoom call at the original time we had scheduled for the seder. I insisted on a Seder, though I was willing to do only 15 minutes. The calls and texts saying “no way” ,“let’s just be with each other”, “I am not in the mood” were all afternoon. I persisted and finally had to tell them it was for me, I was being selfish, and needed something. My zoom account, my rules..
Let’s face it, by no stretch of the imagination was my 15 minute (though I do think we went longer) seder halachic. We did the elements I felt were important to my family. The two three-year-olds virtually stole the afikomen and, by magic, found it in their homes in Ft Lauderdale and San Diego respectively. The negotiations were tough but Aunt Fern did settle on $10 for each kid still in school.
Seder means order. At the end, and for the rest of the night, my family communicated how much they enjoyed it and it was very needed on a day we had not had closure. The death of a parent and grandparent is hard enough but when there is no funeral, no family, no friends, it is surreal. The seder gave us “Family,” more than a Shiva would have.
The sages were wise: Seder supersedes Shiva.
The Seder gave my family order on the day my family needed order the most.
- Seder Means Order - Tue, Apr 14, 2020
- MESH Report Mar 24, 2020 - Thu, Mar 26, 2020
- MESH Report Feb 25, 2020 - Thu, Feb 27, 2020
Beautiful, Fern. My prayers are with you. Thanks for sharing. Jerilyn
Thank you, Fern, for sharing your thoughts of this much needed Seder, during this painful time of mourning your beloved mother – without the support of family and friends at the funeral. Bruce and I were very moved by it.
How comforting. We had a “seder” with my son Alan on Go To Meeting. Just the basics, but since I also am experiencing this alone, it was wonderful seeing those 13 faces on screen. Isn’t the internet a miracle?
The seder means so many things to each of us, and it changes from year to year, seder to seder. Thank you for sharing your experience from this year, and may you continue to be comforted by the memories of your mother.
Fern, you are a leader in every realm of your life — family, work, your Shomrei community. You led your family out of a version of Egypt, giving them the comfort of each other’s presence (albeit virtual) and Jewish tradition (albeit radically altered) at a time when neither seemed accessible. I know how grateful your family is to you and can see from your essay how grateful you are to them. Next year in person!