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Comfort for Passover

I was plagued by the problem of where to spend Passover—until an unexpected message brought me comfort.

Manna and pink flowers for passover

More than 3,500 years ago, Moses, the Egyptian Pharaoh’s adopted son, made a stunning demand of the powerful ruler: “Let my people go!” But the Pharaoh refused to release the Jewish slaves from bondage. That’s when, as the Bible tells us, God stepped in. Ten plagues, a frenzied evacuation and a miracle at the Red Sea later, the Jews were free. Stuck in the desert with little more than the clothes on their backs, sure, but free.  

I’d been feeling a little stuck in the desert myself, lately.

Passover has always been my favorite Jewish holiday. I love getting together with the family around the dinner table for the traditional Seder, reading and singing songs from the Haggadah and, of course, eating my mom’s delicious festive meal. I even wrote about it in Guideposts. This year, however, things are different. More complicated.

I’m married now, and my wife has her side of the family she also loves to spend the Seder with. As much as we’d like to have one big family get-together, we couldn’t make it happen this year—we’d probably have to rent out a banquet hall. And we couldn’t simply do one of the two Seders at her house and one at mine—some of our aunts, uncles and cousins could make one night, but not the other. So I was torn. Splitting up for our first Seders as a married couple wasn’t an option for us. So I agreed to go to my wife’s family for both Seders. No grandma’s brisket this year.

Just one thing… I never really told my mom.

I told my dad. Told my sister. Told my cousins. And the message did get passed on to my mom. My sister told me Mom understood my decision. But it was hard for me to tell her directly. Passover at our house was a tradition. And, well, I didn’t want to face disappointing her—especially when, in my heart, I wanted to be there.

I felt especially torn as I sat down today to write my blog. With Passover coming up, I knew I should acknowledge the holiday. But all my conflicted feelings bubbled up again. I even considered changing my mind. But then I’d have to disappoint my wife. I sat there staring at the blank document on my screen, wondering what I could write.

Just then my phone buzzed. It was a text from Mom. She wanted to talk… about Passover.

Did she know what was going through my head at that exact moment? She couldn’t possibly. But I called her back. And we finally had the talk I’d needed to have. She was fine with me going to my wife’s family. She did understand. She said she was going to cook some food for my mother-in-law’s Seder on the second night. And that next year, we’d try to have the big-tent Passover Seder that my wife and I wanted. I felt a lot better.

Every Jewish family has its own Passover traditions. Over the years, as families grow and spread out, it is inevitable that some of those things change. But as my Mom reminded me, it’s a good problem to have—figuring out where to celebrate. The Jews of the Exodus only had one choice: the barren sands of the Sinai.

Has an unexpected letter, phone call or text finally forced you to confront a problem? Share your story with us!

And to our Jewish readers, have a blessed Pesach, wherever you find yourself spending it.

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