As I child, I attended a Jewish day school in the San Fernando Valley. It was affiliated with the conservative movement and strictly observed Jewish holidays and rituals. I always loathed Passover because the teachers would check our lunches to see if we brought any food not Kosher for Passover. It meant I had to substitute all the leavened bready goodness for my sandwiches for the dry, crumbly substitute of matzah. Needless to say, my ability to barter lunches with other kids diminished for the week. Being the naïve, entitled youngster I was, I thought to myself, “This is what it was like to be a Jewish slave in Egypt. This is why we call it the bread of affliction.” And while I still believe that matzah is a poor substitute for sandwich bread, I hold the same sentiment I did in elementary school but with a different perspective.
Our holidays are rote and repetitive. We chant the same prayers, sing the same songs, and eat the same foods every year. But while those are constants, we are the variables! We grow and experience things differently. A passage from Torah or line from the Haggadah can have a profoundly different impact year to year.
So where am I at this year? Well, I still loathe matzah sandwiches, but I also respect it as a symbolic food. When I bite into matzah now, I no longer think of the lame school lunches I used to eat, now I think about what I am a slave to; what controls my life in a negative way. It is almost Spring, a time of renewal, not just for the plants and animals, but for us too.
My hope is that we use our seders to deepen our connection to each other and our tradition, but also to use the opportunity to reflect on ways we can renew ourselves. May you be inspired to change for the better and find renewal in the form that best suits your needs.