A Passover Perspective

Yesterday, I attended my son’s grade one school Passover Seder. For those of you who don’t know, a Seder is a Jewish ritual feast /meal that marks the beginning of Passover (our Easter, I guess you could say). Of course I was proud. Of course we were all there, with camera, and video camera, holding onto every word, every song with bated breath. And oh we were proud. The kids were over the top. Incredible. And while sitting in the synagogue, just before their “show,” some of the moms asked me where I was going for my two Seders/dinners next week. The women were talking about how they’d been cooking and preparing all week and how exhausted they are. And when I left the synagogue, I couldn’t help but reflect upon the conversation while on my way to Pilates class. By the way, I love this picture of “The White House Seder.”

White House seder

Now please stay with me here. Most of us are born into a religion (unless you’re an atheist), with different customs and beliefs. Some are more devout and religious followers of their religion, others more conservative and reform in their traditions.  And while we all have different degrees of religiosity, I do understand why some people are devout believers and followers of their religions. In a big and scary world, religious customs and traditions provide a sense of comfort, order and security. It provides answers for many of life’s questions. I get it. With all of life’s hardships, and little children dying of cancer for no reason, for example, we are made to believe this suffering has a purpose, and perhaps a good place awaits our loved one in heaven. With the possibility of assimilation, keeping the tradition in one’s home keeps the continuity of religion alive, and allows it to be passed down from generation to generation. Personally, this is why I choose to follow Judaism. So that I can keep it alive and pass it on to my children.

Here’s where I disconnect from religion though. And not just mine. While all my friends are slaving in the kitchen, I truly don’t have an interest. While all my friends fast on the holiest day of the year, Yom Kipper, I don’t. With all my friends not eating bread this Passover season, I will eat bread. Never in front of my kids, as I would never disrespect them nor impose my breaking of the customs in front of them. Now don’t judge me and accuse me of being a bad person. I may not be the best Jew going, but I’m certainly not a bad person. And that is just my whole point in all of this. I don’t believe in martyrdom, and I can’t stand hypocrisy. So, for all the women who slave over twenty course meals in the kitchen to get all the accolades and then fall on their face, I say, “You’re missing the message.” For me, it’s about connections with family and just being together. I think we’ve lost the message. I’d sooner order a pizza (matzo pizza out of respect) and sit around in sweats with the people I love.

And I’m not for unnecessary suffering either. Call it a cop-out if you must. For me, life is all about being a good person.  And what aggravates me about this time of year, Passover, is the hypocrisy of religion. Yes this is a bold statement to make, but it’s true. There are people who would not turn on a light switch on the Sabbath, but have sex with prostitutes. There are priests who head churches, and molest boys. There are pious men who swindle people out of money. So for me, I’d sooner be a good person than a religious person. And for me, I’m all about ONE LOVE. I have friends from many different racial and religious backgrounds. I’ve never been one to entirely stick to my own “tribe.” I’m fascinated with other people’s cultures, and I have a thirst for knowledge.

all races and religions

Growing up, my best friend was catholic. Her family went to church every Sunday and they were God fearing honest people. But why I loved this family was, they respected me and our religious differences. They never put their Christmas tree up without me, and I would join in the songs and even drank eggnog. When I went over for dinner and they were serving pork, there was always a separate meal prepared for me. And when she invited me to visit her church one Sunday mass, I was excited to go and see another house of worship.

So with my Passover holiday just around the corner, I may not be the most religious Jewish woman, and maybe more of a traditional woman, but I hope a good woman. I’m not sure if I believe in God. I believe in what I can touch, see and hear. I believe I have the power to control my own destiny. When I pray, I’m not sure if anyone is listening. And when I think about death, I think after we die,  that’s where it all ends. So what do I believe then when it comes to my religion? I believe in the keeping  tradition, but I believe even more in being a good person.

Ladies, what are you opinions when it comes to your faith, belief and religion. Do you disagree with me? I’d love to know.

PS – On my way to a funeral now, then to a Fed-Ex depot as my husband left this morning for Philadelphia with a passport and cash. That’s it. He left his entire wallet with ID and credit cards at home. Very typical of my honey!

xoxEDxox

24 Comments
  1. While I agree it’s important to be a good person, religion is something you should follow. The customs and laws are there to be followed and one can derive much satisfaction from following the laws. They give one meaning and purpose. Happy Passover.

  2. I agree with you on most of your points. I believe that being religious does not make you a better person. To me Passover is about tradition. Celebrating the holiday with those you love. I dont go nuts in the kitchen either. I like to make a nice dinner that follows the holiday “somewhat”. We do keep the no bread,no rice,no flour rule but thats it. I dont like anyone to judge me and I do not judge them. I have been to restaurants with people that eat bread and I dont. LIVE and LET LIVE is my moto.Great post. keep them coming…..
    ps. even though i do believe in GOD , i too often wonder why bad things happen to good people.

  3. I am going to respond this from a blended families point of view. My parents switched Christian religions like they changed their underware. I have been baptised, sprinkled, christened whatever the latest fad was for my parents. The one common thread is Guilt.

    I believe in God, in a higher power than myself, but I also need someone to talk to when I am alone.

    My husbands step-father is Jewish. My children have been raised with awareness of both cultures and have participated in both traditions. I leave it for my children to choose.

    Personally I hold the christian family traditions I was raised with and allow my in-laws to educate or share their traditions.

    The rule is No One preaches guilt to my children. I am raising my children to be respectful of everyone no matter their color, religion or sexual orientation. I am hopeful that I am raising my children to be good people. I just try to be the best me I can be. I follow my traditions that give me that warm feeling inside, but I do not take my children to a church to learn about God. I have taught my children to be the best they can be and to treat others the way they want to be treated. That the belief in God is a personal relationship and decision.

    I agree with you, Erica. The keeping of my christion traditions are more about making time to be with loved ones than it is about what the general devoted religious communitity would want.

  4. Your post struck a chord with me…Mostly because I was raised Catholic, and I chose to convert to Judaism as an adult, and by converting, I mean Orthodox…The whole kitten-kaboodle. A couple of comments:

    1. “And what aggravates me about this time of year, Passover, is the hypocrisy of religion.There are people who would not turn on a light switch on the Sabbath, but have sex with prostitutes. There are priests who head churches, and molest boys. There are pious men who swindle people out of money.”

    Yes, these things all happen, but I wouldn’t necessarily be so quick to jump the gun and simply dismiss religion as full of hypocrisies. The fact is…We are all human, and no one’s perfect. (If you want to get technical, there was only person, whom many people believe was “perfect,” but that was because he is also believed to be a deity). Just because people strive on different levels, and they fall down or fail does not make them hypocrites. A hypocrite is someone who tells people one thing, and then does the complete opposite. (i.e. Saying that you won’t eat bread on passover and then you eat bread on passover.)

    2. “So, for all the women who slave over twenty course meals in the kitchen to get all the accolades and then fall on their face, I say, ‘You’re missing the message.’ For me, it’s about connections with family and just being together. I think we’ve lost the message. I’d sooner order a pizza (matzo pizza out of respect) and sit around in sweats with the people I love.”

    I agree with you that your friends have missed the message of Passover, but I’m not entirely sure that you have the message right either. The REAL point of Passover is to re-experience and re-tell the story of the exodus. Yes, the type of food you eat helps you do this, and the people you share the holiday with help you do this, but the whole crux of the Passover holiday is to remember and relive the exodus experience.

    3. “With all my friends not eating bread this Passover season, I will eat bread. Never in front of my kids, as I would never disrespect them nor impose my breaking of the customs in front of them.”

    As a convert, I can tell you that hiding your true opinions/thoughts/beliefs from your children does more damage than good. Especially when it has to do with religion, kids/people should understand why they are celebrating a holiday/eating certain foods/attending services. Not knowing these things set them up for confusion/disappointment when they reach adulthood and they start looking for answers, but they have nothing to look back on to help them reason.

    4. “But why I loved this family was, they respected me and our religious differences. They never put their Christmas tree up without me, and I would join in the songs and even drank eggnog. When I went over for dinner and they were serving pork, there was always a separate meal prepared for me. And when she invited me to visit her church one Sunday mass, I was excited to go and see another house of worship.”

    I love that your childhood friend’s family taught you respect and tolerance as you were growing up. If everyone had these kinds of experiences, I’m sure the world would be a better place.

  5. Religion? Well for me it was designed as the untimate concept to start retail stores for buying and selling religious articles. I remember when my daughter was bat-mitzvah, the whole hoopla cost sisteen times what it should have because of the mashgiyach, the food, the rentals, the Rabbi. It’s the equivalent of the chocolate companies inventing the tradition of Halloween! Move as much merchandise as possible, charge a premium and tell people they are getting closer to G-d!!!

  6. Bravo. I agree. I’m not Jewish but I agree. Isn’t what we do in our day to day interactions with our brothers and sisters on this planet more important than what we are digesting.

    But I’m sure some people feel more connected to God by fasting etc. So…
    Viva la Difference!

  7. I’m catholic… and from what I’m reading lately in the papers, far from wanting to celebrate anything at this point… much disgust on issues of pedophiles roaming the churches, abuse and pratices of denial… I agree that faith is what you practice in your day-to-day lives amongst those you love and the life you appreciate. Kindness, empathy, love, guidance… the dogmatic side does not appeal to me.

  8. I too have trouble following every Jewish custom. And it’s not for lack of willpower. It’s because it’s hard to for me to accept God completely and without question when there is SO much devastation in our world. I enjoy the traditions (Seders, etc…) and attribute this to the enjoyment I derive from family holidays. I like synagogue because I get something out of listening to the sermon (I look up to the intellect that’d be inherent to clergy), but no more or less than I’d enjoy, say, a lecture given by a person I hold in high regard.

    And @Tara – if we all just followed religion because “The customs and laws are there to be followed and one can derive much satisfaction from following the laws,” I’d also agree that we should be herded and milked.

    Erica, you should read Devotion by Dani Shapiro. I reviewed it here and if you read the review, I think you’ll understand why I’m recommending it. http://tinyurl.com/ykrwbze

  9. I am catholic and, based on the latest news, could not be more ashamed or embarrassed… Though, I am spiritual and practice the dogmas common of all faiths: respect, empathy, guidance, acceptance, joy, fidelity, loyalty, hope, etc. Should it be shared around the table over a lovely meal – why not! But another way of doing it, amidst our chaotic schedules & lives, is asking everyone to partake in the offering. Since I started doing this, everyone seems to feel they have a role to play in the art of giving AND receiving…

  10. I love reading about other people’s beliefs and experiences. Your post and the comment stream are fascinating to read. Thanks for sharing your feelings so openly with us!

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