Our Non-Traditional, Interfaith Seder: A Little Creativity and a Lot of Love
When Passover arrived last year, I was nowhere near ready. I’d made big plans… and hadn’t followed through with any of them. OK, I whipped up a bowl of charoset – the mixture of fruit and nuts that goes on the seder plate – but that was about it. I hadn’t found a shank bone, and I hadn’t hard-boiled an egg, leaving me without two key elements of the seder plate. And though I’d planned to make a traditional brisket, using my grandmother’s recipe, guess what: I hadn’t done that, either.
I felt terrible, in part because Jewish guilt is a powerful, permeating thing, and in part because this was my first time holding a seder in my home – not my mother’s house or the community hall in my synagogue, but in my very own kitchen. It was all on me, and I’d failed, right off the bat.
It was also my first seder with my boyfriend, Mike (who has since become my fiancé and will soon become my husband). Mike grew up Catholic and has since become an atheist, but he’s curious about my religious views and cultural practices. We were both looking forward to our first seder together, and I wanted to show him a good one.
I did, at least, have a seder plate, a Kiddush cup (for wine), and a haggadah, graciously sent to me by a local organization that supports interfaith families. Intended for families with young children, the items they sent were plastic with cartoony Passover drawings – but I was grateful to have them.
Actually, I wasn’t even all that worried about the items missing from my seder plate. I don’t cook meat or eggs in my home, so it made sense not to include them; instead, I replaced the shank bone with a beet and the egg with a daisy, as Jewish vegans do. Flowers, like eggs, represent spring, and the use of beets dates back to the Baylonian Talmud, Tractate Pesachim 114b, in which Rabbi Huna said “beets and rice” may appear on the seder plate.
What upset me most was the dinner I’d neglected to prepare. What would we eat after our seder? How could I host a seder not followed by brisket? What would my late grandmother say?
And then I stopped. I took a breath. I realized that my grandma, of blessed memory, was no stickler for the rules. You know what she would’ve said? She would’ve told me to calm down and pick a nice restaurant.
So we did. Instead of picking a nice restaurant, though, I proposed that post-seder, we hit up our favorite taco joint down the street. I’d order a burrito bowl or maybe tacos in a corn tortilla (OK for Passover as long as it’s your minhag, or custom, to consume kitniyot – rice, corn, and beans – during the holiday). It seemed like a perfect way to put our own spin on the holiday and maybe create a new tradition.
When Mike got home from work, he found me running frantically around the kitchen as I assembled the seder plate and placed dishes of saltwater next to our plates for dipping the karpas (vegetable). He handed me a package that had just arrived in the mail and asked that we open it together.
Inside was a beautiful, hand-painted, ceramic seder plate, a gift from Mike to me – a symbol of his commitment to learning about Judaism and to respecting the traditions that are so dear to me. I teared up as I held it, caressing the grooves intended for each element of the seder as I imagined using it at Passover 20 years into the future – together, of course.
That night, our seder ran smoothly… for the most part. I stumbled over some of the rituals, and Mike tripped over some of the readings, but we made it through the entire haggadah, pausing for conversation about Judaism and life in general. We talked about our hopes for the future, our social justice concerns, and our worldviews. Isn’t that part of what Pesach is all about?
At the end of the seder, even our makeshift plans hit a snag when we found that the wait at the taco place was far too long for our grumbling stomachs to bear. Instead, at Mike’s suggestion, we wandered into a nearly-empty Thai restaurant, where we overindulged in chicken kaprow and pad Thai, a leaven-free meal that left us happy, full, and excited about a new family tradition – one of our first together.
Traditionalists will say we didn’t do Passover right, and maybe that’s true. My Judaism is not perfect, but it’s genuine and passionate and important to me, even when I get a little creative about it. I’ll always remember Mike’s and my first seder together, and I look forward to many more to come.