Pesach Day 8 5779 – Re’eh, celebrating Pesach Your Way!

By: Elisa Miller

How do you like your Matzah? Butter? Cream cheese and jelly? As a matzah pizza or lasagna? Scrambled in eggs as Matzah brei? However you like it, breakfast, meal, snack or dessert, I am sure that by today, the eighth day, you are probably tired of being matzah-creative! Like me, you might be suffering from Matzah belly… That uncomfortable feeling you get when you know you’ve had too many matzah balls and or too much farfel-based granola.

So my question to you today is why are we still celebrating an eighth day of Passover in the diaspora? Why not end on the seventh like they do in Israel? Or as the reform or reconstructionists do here in the US? Is it cognitive dissonance that comes from the idea of changing strong-held family traditions? Would your grandparents be upset if you ended ‘early’?

This may be the fifth question we could ask at the Seder: how many days is Pesach?

The beauty of Passover it the traditions associated with the holiday and they are as varied as there are families. Most of us grew up with the Maxwell House or the Red / Yellow Hagaddahs that proliferated in the 60s and 70s. This year at our table, we shared passages from the Hogwarts Unoffical Hagaddah, the Mrs. Maisel Hagaddah along with several different editions of the Red/Yellow (copyright dates in the 1960s and 1990s).  We also had two different types of Haroseth, the traditional Ashkenazi one my mom makes, with apples, nuts and wine—just like my grandfather used to make. And we also have the Sephardic one with dried fruits made by a friend of the family.

Do you use green onions or celery for the greens we dip in the salt water? Do you still use bones to represent the Pascal lamb, or do you do as some of my vegetarian friends, who use a Pascal Yam?

My father, may he rest in peace, used to say that Pesach was his favorite holiday. Not all of the cooking that my mother did, not all the cleaning and moving of things around the house, but because it was a holiday centered around the home and family. He loved to hide the afikomen in places no one would ever dream of looking (including in his sock one year). He reveled in the fact that everyone had a responsibility and role to play in our family seder. We use food and dialogue, song and readings to make the seders truly ours. Like ours, I am sure that yours have evolved over time. We don’t read as much Hebrew, we don’t sing as many of the songs, be we continue to include the parts that have meaning.

Whether we are use traditions from our ancestors or creative interpretations to keep the next generation engaged (including stuff toy plagues), we constantly renew and revive our faith, ensuring it is as meaningful now as it was when we first started celebrating our Judaism, whenever that may have been. And what feels sacred and right to one of us may be totally foreign and new to another, yet there is room for everyone and every custom. Whether you ended Pesach last night or will do so tonight, I hope that this holiday celebration has brought meaning and joy to you and yours.

Shabbat Shalom.