Passover binds us, even with heavy hearts

By Debbi K. Levy

Passover has a sparkle all its own. The Dallas Seders I grew up in and around held at my grandparents’ home have molded and shaped me. Hip-hip-hooray for the pageantry and long-winded Dayenus. From the shiny cobalt china settings to the floral centerpieces to the carefully covered gray paper protecting our aging Haggadot to Nana’s sponge kneidlach, this holiday is the one I most want to dwell in each year. I can still hear my grandfather, Dr. Stanley Pearle, approaching the conclusion of the Seder service, proclaiming, “Next year in Jerusalem!”

It would be so simple for someone like me to replicate all the sacred details due to my experiences of those Passover festival services. With many years of Jewish tutelage earned in my grandmother’s kitchen that was bustling with paid help and the aroma of a delectable standing rib roast, I know this holiday and all its culinary rituals top to bottom. Zella Sobel would have made a special delivery of delicacies only hours before the start of the Seder and I could be found sneaking a spoonful of charoset that literally melts in your mouth. I can surely recreate this joy for the next generation as they run full steam ahead into my home with the porch light on for them. But You, Reader, who has become like a friend to me, may be able to sense my hesitancy, my emotional fatigue, as this anticipated season is upon us. I am wondering if you, too, are feeling some mixed feelings about kosher-for-Passover Lolly Cones and coins for the finder of the afikomen this year?

My logical self understands that living a full and rich Jewish life with all the customs and rituals is the very thing, the essence of what I should be leaning into in our post-Oct. 7 world, but my heart is simply not enthusiastic. It pleads, “Can’t we just postpone everything until the hostages are safely home?” My heart presses still further, “Too many seats at the tables in Israel will be vacant this year to consider gathering at our own as we recall the Exodus from Egyptian bondage with cups of wine and herbs.” And then, upon my next exhale, I know my rational intentions must overrule my heart on this one occasion. I don’t remember a time when I haven’t sought the head and heart in collaboration. I observe in myself that this complexity I am trying to untangle between head and heart is a reflection of our broken world. Perhaps it is my neshama that urges, “Pull out your recipe box and begin to sweep the chametz from the pantry shelves.”

With an abundance of everything that we humbly ask for in our prayers, Barry and I will have 13 family members for this next-generation l’dor v’dor Dallas Seder. Five of our crew will be kids and our grandson Miles will be celebrating his 10th birthday on this upcoming first night of Passover. The most delicious Pesadic cake you’ve ever encountered will hold his candles!

Circling back to the conflicted heart space versus head space, I am considering how I can exact joy for, not only our grandchildren, but our adult children as well. I am certain that these adults are also feeling the mood of an Israel at war. Could we, perhaps, compromise and accept the fact that there will not be unbridled joy but, rather, a hopeful imagining of the future as we crack the door open for Elijah? Could we dwell in a comforting, compassionate prayer for the State of Israel, neatly placed right in the middle of our Haggadot? And while dinner is served, could we begin to offer up images of our beloved Israel and include soft plans for a family trip to our homeland when the time is right? Lastly, from the Union Haggadah copyright 1923, could we read slowly, remembering all we have been given as Jewish people?

The cups are filled for the fourth time.

The leader lifts the cup and reads:

The festive service is completed. With songs of praise, we have lifted up the cups symbolizing the divine promises of salvation and have called upon the name of God. As we offer the benediction over the fourth cup, let us again lift our souls to God in faith and hope. May He who broke Pharaoh’s yoke forever shatter all fetters of oppression and hasten the day when swords shall, at last, be broken and wars ended. Soon may He cause the glad tidings of redemption to be heard in all lands, so that mankind — freed from violence and from wrong and united in an eternal covenant of brotherhood — may celebrate the universal Passover in the name of our God of freedom.

All read in unison:

May God bless the whole house of Israel with freedom and keep us safe from danger everywhere. Amen.

Kohenet Debbi K. Levy welcomes your feedback at
debbiklevy@gmail.com. But please wait until after Passover; she has a lot of cleaning and cooking.

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