Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Seder


            Annually, more people attend a Passover Seder than any other Jewish event.  While the week afterwards spent without bread products is less than enjoyable at best, the Seder itself is, hands down, my favorite religious tradition.  For any non-Jews reading this, the Seder is a gathering that amongst other things requires all participants to retell the story of the Exodus, eat from a variety of unusual dishes, and consume the obligatory 4 cups of wine.  The result is hours of reading, nibbling, singing, eating, explaining, and some would say most importantly, drinking.
            My first 17 Passovers were all celebrated at home, in Baltimore.  Every year we’d do the first night at my house and the second at my uncle’s.  Cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles all gathered together, pretending to listen to my dad’s shpiel, and praying to avoid reading the long paragraphs.  My sister and I used to reenact the ten plagues throwing fake frogs across the room and painting our faces with boils.
            Last night, for the first time in my life, I celebrated Passover outside of Pikesville, without my family (of course, I still made my appearance at our Seder for a brief moment on Facetime).  Meanwhile, here in Atlanta, a couple of friends and I made the trip to the Chabad house to capitalize on the free brisket and wine.
            The environment certainly wasn’t the same as at home.  A tent full of about 100 college kids dwarfed my family, which Maxes out at about 20 (I couldn’t resist).  We listened to the Rabbi speak, read from the Haggadah, and recited all of the required prayers.  We did the ritual washing of the hands, sang Dayenu (my grandmother’s favorite), and finally, the five-course meal was served.  And as I sat there and took in the scene, the Rabbi made a comment that I won’t forget.  He noted that maybe Judaism has changed quite a bit over time; I certainly don’t pray every day, or keep Kosher, or follow the laws of the Sabbath.  Nevertheless, the fact that last night, 3000 years later, we were all sitting in that room is proof enough for me of the strength of Judaism.
            I’m not particularly religious, and I try not to let my lineage have a huge effect on the people I associate with.  But, it’s times like last night that make me remember why I’m proud to be a Jew.  There were at least a dozen different fraternities, sororities, clubs, societies, and other organizations represented at Chabad, yet for one evening we all came together.  That sense of community is something that I hardly find at Emory.
            Of course, there will always be the people who argue that religion is stupid and a God couldn’t possibly exist.  There are those who laugh at the fact that people daily, spend hours trying to interpret a document composed thousands of years ago.  I say, go ahead, mock religion all you want, but to mock the atmosphere of last night—the inherent sense of family and community—I will never understand.  The Jewish people have stuck together for thousands of years, and we’re still here, so we must be doing something right.