As a twenty-one year old college student exploring my Judaism for the first time, I really had no idea what to expect from my first Passover Seder. Sure, I had seen a Seder plate before and I was pretty sure Matzos and a hard boiled egg would be somewhere in the mix throughout the night, but other than that, I really did not know what I was getting myself into. Lucky enough for me, I work at Hillel, so in the weeks beforehand, I was surrounded by people who could guide me to at least understand why we celebrate Passover in the first place.
As our Hillel Director, Amy, dove into telling me the story of Passover, I was surprised--and not for the first time--at how NOT bored I was. My mother is Jewish, but my father is Catholic and growing up, I was raised mainly with Catholicism- and by that I mean I went to church for the baptisms of cousins and celebrated Christmas and Easter. I attended CCD (the equivalent of Catholic Sunday School) and I often found myself bored and confused. I did not find any meaning behind the rituals. As I got older, my family’s slim commitment to religion got slimmer and I felt disconnected from Catholicism. Yes I celebrated Christmas and Easter, but not really for any religious reasons. In hearing the story of Passover, I was once again reminded of one of the reasons I feel so connected to Judaism- everything we do and every holiday we celebrate has so much meaning behind it, which I think is so cool and really refreshing.
Finally the day came where I would experience Passover for the first time. The day before, I helped make the haroset and set the table at Hillel, but when I finally got to Hillel on the night of the seder, I was nervous. This holiday seemed so special to everyone around me, and I was scared I would do something wrong during the seder that would make me look silly- or even worse would ruin the whole night. I sat down next to my friends and the night began, and it was fun! I mainly just listened and copied what everyone around me was doing, which I sometimes think can be the best way to learn. I was pleasantly surprised at how interactive and fun Passover was. And even better, the food was delicious. The Hillel sandwich that had been making my stomach quiver with fear all week was actually one of my favorite parts.
After my first Seder experience, I would say I am more than excited to celebrate again next year and also learn more about the other holidays. What I learned from this evening the most is to never be afraid to try something new. If you are genuinely excited for something and you try your best to learn all you can, your experience will be meaningful. I learned that Passover is harder than I thought-- there’s a lot more to it than refraining from bread. This year I am proud to be observing Passover for the first time, because even though it is difficult, I am doing it to remember all of the hardships the Jewish people faced as slaves and to thank God for bringing our people to safety all those years ago. As it says in the Hagaddah, “In every generation we must view ourselves as if we personally had gone out from Egypt.” It feels good to be a part of keeping that memory alive. Plus the reduction of refined sugars and carbs from my diet this week hasn’t been too bad for my health!