I am happy to report that I managed to survive my second Passover, all two seders of it. I was a little nervous at first, given that I am currently even less fit than usual for public consumption, but I made it through two days of almost constant human interaction without having a nervous breakdown and/or screaming at anyone. In my world, that is always a minor victory. This particular weekend, it was a triumph.

Instead of turning this into yet another ode to my own introversion, however, I want to talk about the external world for a change. Specifically, I would like to talk about my husband’s incredibly extroverted family. Normally at events such as these, all I can see is the sheer number of faces and voices, and it’s all I can do to keep myself breathing in and out while eating at the same time. Talking comes a distant third behind these two essential tasks.

Last night though, after the prayers were all said and the meal itself was begun, I stepped outside my own social anxiety for long enough to take a look at the people around me. These people make a fine art out of being family junkies. For them, the religious holiday is just another great reason to bring everyone together, and people come from all over the state (and out of it, in some cases!) to attend. For a fellow family junkie, even one with a totally different upbringing, it is quite frankly a beautiful thing to behold.

At one point, my husband and his cousins were reminiscing about Passovers gone by, and how they used to be the gang of little kids who ran around and made a ruckus during the meal. Now it is their kids who provide the entertainment, which last night included one of them coming in to show his daddy a toy leafblower — complete with sound effects! — in the midst of the Hagadah.

It hit me then that this is what Judaism is all about. That is how it’s been passed down through countless generations, through oppression and tyranny, across different continents and languages. Each generation brings its children together, just as they were brought together when they were children. Somehow, despite their general lack of attention, the kids manage to soak up the rituals that the adults are performing, and grow up to do the same for their children. I watched our little blond niece fearlessly reciting a portion of the Hebrew prayer next to her grandfather, and marveled at how effortlessly she has soaked up the rituals and traditions of her heritage.

Being slightly older than six, I am having a slightly harder time of it. As a former academic, it’s difficult for me to embrace something without fully understanding it. Thus I am still struggling to understand and embrace the traditions of my faith-in-law, and will probably continue to do so for a while to come. I don’t want to subscribe to these traditions blindly, but rather to feel them in my bones, the way many of the older people in that room so clearly did. These were not just words to them, but rather rituals binding them to their ancestors and to their absent loved ones. Their cheeks were dripping with tears as they sang, even as they laughed at the children’s continued antics and the cousins’ terrible jokes. In that dichotomy you could see everything that this holiday embodies: bittersweet memories of the past combined with beautiful lessons for the future.

Once I saw and understood this, I came a whole lot closer to understanding what the holiday was really about. So what if the passages we were reading didn’t make much sense, or if the songs we sang were super cheezy? In the end, it’s the underlying tradition that’s important, linking each generation to the next and ensuring that the faith — and the family — continues.

Plus, to my surprise, I am actually quite fond of gefilte fish and horseradish. Perhaps I am starting to become a little bit Jewish after all.

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