Last year I decided to do something different for Passover. Rather than spending it with family, or with my Jewish pseudo-family in Irvine, I made the decision to host my own seder for my friends, who, coincidentally, were not Jewish. Excluding one, all of my guests had never experienced Passover.
It was a night that started with spilling the pot roast juices in the back seat of my car as I traveled to my friends’ apartment. I soon realized that three bottles of Manischewitz was not going to be enough for seven people. Sure, we could drink four sips of wine rather than four cups, but then that would have defeated the purpose! Wine is a symbol of joy and that joy couldn’t properly manifest with four measly sips. After the guys returned from the store with more wine (as well as an orange for the seder plate), I turned to the first page of the haggadah I made through the wonderful site haggadot.com, finally ready to begin the seder. Overly conscious of everyone’s eyes on me, I sped through the prayers rather than chanting them. Perhaps, four cups of wine later, I’d be comfortable enough to show off my singing voice. Everyone took turns reading passages as I occasionally had to slap hands away from the matzot or as they referred to them “the Jewish crackers” until it was time for for yachatz, breaking of the matzah. The youngest of the group asked not only the traditional Four Questions, but also modernized versions: the Four Children, the Four Problems, and the Four Faces of Ourselves. Two moments made it a complete first-time experience for them: when they began to kvetch as the Seder dragged on, and when they teared up as they ate the maror (horseradish); however, the guys did try to act all macho by eating, or at least attempting to eat, the most.
Regardless of tummies grumbling from hunger, heads dizzy from wine, and eyes wet from tears, they were still able to appreciate the night’s important message: to fight oppression in all its forms and continue the mission of repairing the world, tikkun olam. Passover was, and is, more than a Jewish holiday—it is our holiday. Neither the significance of each wine drop marking the ten plagues, nor the bittersweet taste of the maror and charoset was lost on anyone. That night brought some of us closer to our faith, and it brought all of us closer together.
And this year, I am ready to do it all over again! Have enough wine? Check. Remember the orange? Double check! Chant the Hebrew the way it was intended?…check. Anything else? Oh, yeah… advise my friends to eat a big lunch beforehand because they are in for another long and bittersweet night.
Dvorah Lewis is completing her Master’s in Library & Information Science at UCLA.