Passover Approaches - A Journey is at Hand
Today I leave on a 700 mile drive (for which I will take a leisurely 2 days) so that I may attend my 22nd Passover Seder with my extended family.
J. and E. are a generous couple who scooped me up as part of their wonderfully diverse extended clan about 24 years ago. I missed two Seders - one because I was in another country at the time,and one because J. was in the hospital having surgery. The Seders have become movable now that J and E's two sons are married and with their own households. This year the youngest son and his wife are hosting, so off I go, blissful at having been included for yet another year.
Passover has become a linchpin in my spiritual year, an important stop on every year's spiritual journey. For those of you who may not have ever attended a Passover Seder, it is a family liturgy written around a meal that tells the story of the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt and celebrates their freedom from slavery. This is written in a book that is called "The Haggadah". And what a beautiful liturgy. It encompasses every emotion -- from despair through rage to hope and boundless joy.
Every year we go through this liturgy, and each year brings some new observation or point of scholarship. J's Seders are lively events, full of commentary and questions and sage observation. And despite the venue, whether he wishes it or not, J is always the patriarch of the Seder. We all end up turning to him and his deep wellspring of knowledge and his lively approach to zesty dialogue.
And every year we note those who are no longer alive, with whom we have shared prior Seders. It is as though their shape lingers around the table, with us not entirely whole without them. During the year, those of us who attend this Seder tend to run into eachother at other events -- weddings and the like. Invariably some one of us will say "It looks like the Passover group is here!" It is as though we keep our shape even apart - with a sort of latent luminosity. However, since we seem to be more than the sum of our parts (like all lively families) when we are assembled, things feel different - more connected, more whole, more just plain right.
To gather for Passover is to put the key into the lock of a treasure chest that can be counted on from one year to another to be fuller than the past. My deep happiness at this splendid gathering of generous souls who have made of me extended family can be found echoed in the Hallal a beautiful recitation of joy near the end of the Haggadah.
"If our mouths were as full of song as the sea and our tongues could sing joyously like the endless waves . . . we still would not be able to give You sufficient thanks, O G-d, . . . for even one of the thousand thousands and myriad myriads of favors which You have done for our Fathers and for us."