Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights?

This evening, I’m flying the red-eye to London Heathrow, headed to England to spend Passover with my family.

It’s funny. I feel like things that for so many other people are special and exciting, are simply the norm for me. Such as flying to England. Sure, I’m excited, but this is my third time there and I know more of what to expect. It’s less of a tourist vacation and more of a family visit.

On the other hand, things that for so many other people are normal, even boring or rote, are new and fascinating to me. Such as a family with whom to spend Passover dinner. I’ve been to many a seder in my life, but never a family seder — especially one I’ve been promised is “rowdy and unorthodox.” To say I’m looking forward to it would be a gross understatement.

Passover is one of my favorite Jewish holidays. It’s anchored in shared traditions and a common narrative — every year, the seder is shaped around the same text, the same recollection of ancient events, the same symbolic foods on the seder plate. The Passover seder — at which, the Four Questions explain, you conduct yourself differently than you do at any other meal — is really a meta-meal. You don’t just eat something; you have to wonder why you are eating it. (And trust me, there is always a good, rabbinic reason.) The meal is just a medium for storytelling and reflection. In true Jewish fashion, it provides an opportunity to overanalyze everything.

For me, this Passover can’t help but be a meta-meta-meal. As we embark on our annual renewal of centuries-old traditions, recounting history through lamb shanks and several glasses of wine, I will be studying a second history. I will look around the table at a family that is somewhat new to me and try to figure out my place in their narrative. Forget Four Questions; I have about four thousand.

And hopefully, in the blissful haze of good food, good drink and good company, I’ll forget them all.

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One response to “Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights?

  1. Have a safe and fun trip! I know nothing about Passover, so I checked out the wikipedia article. The questions are interesting – I’m curious what kinds of answers come up with some of those….

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