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Passover meant a big seder, with my grandfather chanting at the end of the table. My cousins and I would scramble around the house, hunting for the afikomen. Then my uncle would play the piano in the basement while we all sang. It was a wonderful holiday.
Passover also meant skipping my usual PB&J and taking buttered matzah to school, wrapped in aluminum foil. I remember how the butter would melt into shiny globules, and Iâ€™d rub them in with my finger. There was something nice about being â€śThe Jewish Kidâ€ť in the class, with my special food. I loved the rituals. I liked the hyper-awareness of Passover, the symbolism of the seder plate. Mortar and tearsâ€”the sense that everything mattered.
And while we didnâ€™t celebrate Easter religiously at our house, I did get a basket from my (Catholic) mom, filled with jellybeans and chocolate eggs. This was nice, tooâ€”that while I got to be â€śThe Jewish Kidâ€ť I also didnâ€™t feel totally left out of Easter. Sometimes there was a neighborhood parade and we made Easter hats from cardboard, glue and feathers.
Then came a year when the holidays overlapped. My parents were newly divorced, and not communicating well. My mom did her best with Passover. If memory serves, I took my matzah to school like usual. But then on Sunday morningâ€¦ I got my Easter basket. Filled with bright jelly beans.
I tore into it, of course, mouth filled with sweetness, until I crunched through a blue candy shell into the crisp goodness of a malted robinâ€™s egg. And suddenly, it hit me. Easter wasnâ€™t Kosher for Passover! I spit the candy out into my hand, confused. What should I do?
For the next few days, my Easter basket sat on top of the fridge, waiting for me. I remember staring up at it, thinking about how it wasnâ€™t fair, that nobody else I knew had to wait to eat her candy. But the truth was, my dad wasnâ€™t there to enforce the rules anymore. It was all me. I had put the basket on top of the fridge, and I felt conflicted, but also firm in my resolve.
Years later, as an adult, the holidays overlapped again, and remembering the basket on the fridge, I did a funny thing. I assembled a Kosher-for-Passover Easter basket for myself. I did a good job, hunted down fruit-gels and made chocolate-covered matzah. The basket looked lovely.
But you know what? It was no good. It didnâ€™t make me happy at all. Staring at that basket of fruit slices and jelly rings didnâ€™t feel the same as waking up to an Easter basket. Not remotely. It feltâ€¦ wrong.
I think sometimes, in the interfaith community, we seek to smooth the ruffled feelings, to reconcile all our conflicts and contradictions. We want to believe that weâ€™re creating families in which everything can blend, fit and make sense. But hereâ€™s the thingâ€”some things are distinct, even mutually exclusive. Some years, choosing to keep Kosher for Passover means not eating Easter candy. And thatâ€™s annoying, but also OK. Things donâ€™t have to be easy to matter.
In a way, I feel like I undermined the essence of each holiday in that Eastover Basket I made. For me (and I can only speak for my own experience), Passover is about the restrictions, the rigor. Passover feels powerful because of its deprivation. And for me, Easter baskets are the oppositeâ€”about abundance, sheer pleasure.
This is fine! These two holidays donâ€™t have to blend. Each holiday holds a special place in my memory. Easter and Passover can co-exist without merging. And you know what? The truth is that all the most meaningful experiences of my life have included conflict. Every deep relationship Iâ€™ve had has been imperfect, particular and occasionally inconvenient. Often, rituals matter most when we have to wait for them, or forego something else. Sometimes, conflict serves a purpose.
When I was a kid, I stared up at my Easter basket on the fridge and thought about both holidays. I owned them both and recognized that they both mattered to me. That year, for the first time, I truly decided to keep Kosher for Passover. It mattered more than it ever had before. And then a few days later, I decided to eat my robinâ€™s eggs.
They were delicious.
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