This year we knew what we were doing as we Zoomed across three continents and several states. We knew where to put the IPad so that everyone could see and be seen. We knew to mute and unmute. We knew how we would sound singing together. And we knew that if we didn’t mute ourselves, everyone could hear our comments.
This year we had in person guests at our small seder, for we were less fearful, though still cautious.
This year we experimented with haroset and grew our own karpas and hazerat.
This year we invited people with whom we had not shared a seder since childhood.
This year we had three seders — yes, three — to accommodate family in France and Israel. And this year guests even participated from their car as they went on to another seder.
And this year we did not obsess about everything being “right” or perfect.
Last Passover was unique. We were all just learning the wonders and challenges of Zoom — how we could all be virtually in the same room at the same time while crossing borders and time zones effortlessly.
A year later, Zooming isn’t such a novelty. Most of us are used to gathering with people from across the country and around the world for learning, for entertainment and for prayer.
The challenge at Passover this year was how to make the virtual experience as good as it was last year. We added new readings; we tried to use at least some of the same recipes so that we actually shared dinner; and we reached out to other family members.
Each of our three seders was different.
On Saturday night, my brothers joined my husband, older daughter and my son-in-law for a pretty traditional seder with some added contemporary readings. We plucked our celery leaves from the plants growing on the dining room radiator, munched on fruit slices and ate Grandma Bessie’s baked matzah balls, and would have liked to share her legendary sponge cake. Unfortunately, Zoom has not yet figured out sharing beyond sounds and images.
Our second seder began at 12:30 on Sunday afternoon to accommodate my daughter and her family in France. Again pulling from readings I gleaned from the internet, this haggadah was designed for a bilingual, multigenerational group.
The guest list was almost the same with the exception of the French contingent until my aunt, cousins, and nephew joined us. We were now tri-continental and represented several states. As each unexpected guest Zoomed in, I thought of the delightful children’s picture book And Then Another Sheep Turned Up by Laura Gehl. But unlike real life, over Zoom we ran out of neither chairs nor food. (You can see at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzUVNZgi_50)
What made this second seder especially memorable was my grandchildren reading the Four Questions in French. It was also the first time since we were all kids — long before any of us had children of our own — that we shared a Passover seder.
Sunday night brought the sequence to an end with Rabbi Greenstein’s well orchestrated and meaningful seder.
Would it have been nicer to be all in person? Of course. But the chances of my nephew who is studying in Israel, my cousin from Colorado, my 93 year old aunt from Massachusetts and every else being together in the same room is highly unlikely.
Dayenu…it was enough.