Jewish converts in their religious holiday journeys often start out as staunchly traditional as a brisket, but equally often end up as easygoing as a matzah lasagna at a Passover seder. It’s not that we decide the weight and fuss of tradition isn’t meaningful. But as we come into our own as Jews and get a few years of personal Jewish history behind us, we no longer need tradition as a training wheel. We finally learn to relax into the melody of our holidays while feeling confident about improvising our own solo lines.
That’s my explanation, anyway, for the matzagna that will appear on our seder table this year–a break from our usual boeuf bourguignon, coq aux vin with figs, or brisket. I love owning my kitchen and my holidays in that kind of mighty culinary manner. But irreverence has its place–even on the holidays.
Here’s a roundup of my Passover experience since the beginning of my Jewish journey. The point where I learned to improvise is apparent. May you and yours have a Happy Pesach, if you and yours roll Jewishly–and a wonderful Easter and everything else to everyone else reading.
- Passoverwrought (2011): The strident Passover that ended early at Subway. “Plan all the phoney matzah meals you want, or avoid it completely and subsist on permitted meats and quinoa. No amount of advance planning will take all the sting out of observing Passover. Nor should it.”
- Passover and Stay Awhile (2012): The Passover I finally got it right. “What a difference a year makes. Last year I was Passoverwrought. This year, I saw Pesach coming–and happily counted the days.”
- Personal Pesach Posek (2013): The Passover I learned to chose my own way forward. “How the Sadducees, the Sanhedrin, and Sweet Brown led Ryan and me to a observe a seven-day Passover holiday.”
- Out of Apathy (2014): A first journey into the post-congregational desert for Pesach. “Jewish journeys are not always comfortable. They’re not meant to be. But you can’t reach the promised land unless you pick one. Especially at Passover.”
- “I Didn’t Realize How Much I Missed You” (2015): A once-in-a-lifetime reunion over Passover. “There are second chances, there are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, and then there are miracles. On seeing my family again after 20 years apart.”
- The Point of Life Is Each Other (2016): A personal manifesto inspired by Passover. “The same people who doubt their stories have meaning are often the people whose stories help heal the world.”
- (What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You) Unaffiliated (2017): A second journey into the post-congregational desert for Pesach. “As Passover approaches we let go of our chametz. For the second time in three years, for us that includes giving up our synagogue affiliation.”