“This will be the fastest seder ever!” “Can we eat yet?” Most of us have heard or even uttered these words during Pesach. It is no surprise that both expressions are repeated throughout the film (which is cleverly titled) When Do We Eat? starring many familiar faces like Adam Lamberg, Shiri Appleby, Ben Feldman and (my favorite) Max Greenfield. The film will reach its tenth birthday next month, and yet it is still applicable to younger generations and will continue to remain relevant years from now.
When a hot-tempered father, a daughter who’s a sex therapist, a teenage son who does drugs, another daughter who’s a lesbian, her non-Jewish girlfriend, and an Israeli, all gather in the same tent, the different personalities are sure to clash resulting in revealing each other’s secrets. Even though When Do We Eat? takes place during a Jewish holiday, the film is relatable for people of all faiths and resembles any typical family gathering. There are plenty of funny moments many of which occur because one of the sons slips his father some ecstasy.
Amongst the humor, there are also meaningful messages as well as serious scenes. I found Max Greenfield’s character the most refreshing. This isn’t just because I love him and will watch anything he stars in, but also because his character, as a recently turned Hasidic Jew, ties the seder back to tradition and kabbalistic teachings of Judaism, reminding us of the spiritual connection that can be achieved through our own traditions. Pesach should be treated so much more than as a “chore,” but rather as an opportunity to reconnect and deepen that connection to our heritage.
Three different generations of Jews are portrayed in the film and offer different perspectives on Pesach. The grandfather is a Holocaust survivor and holds a much deeper connection to the significance of the holiday. The father just wants to skip through the long parts and get to the meal. While the younger generations have varied views: as stated before one is reconnecting with his heritage, one is physically disconnected as she answers her cellphone numerous times and the others are similar to the father and can’t wait for the seder to end.
Surprisingly, it’s the non-Jewish character who stops the bickering and helps the family remember the purpose of the seder and refocuses the energy to one of forgiveness. As the father continues to trip on ecstasy, the family is liberated from their secrets. The seder allows them not only to reconnect with their heritage, but to also reconnect with each other. It’s not about “When do we eat?” It’s about “Who eats with us?”
Dvorah Lewis is pursuing her Master’s in Library & Information Science with a specialization in Archival Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.