By Vilona Trachtenberg
The Seders I experienced this past weekend may have been my most meaningful.
I participated in Nickel City Jews’ virtual Seder on the second night of Pesach, and we spent time reflecting as a group – reliving our ancestors’ plights, while exploring the themes of gratitude, inclusivity and faith – the mainstay lessons that continuously help us break out of our own exiles, especially during the pandemic.
The overarching emphasis on our modern-day Seders focus on all of us living through our own exile of sorts. We relive the Seder – we dip the symbolic food assortment in the saltwater, we break and eat matzah and we focus on the connection of the Moses/G-d partnership against the Egyptian powers. We relive what our own ancestors went through, and connect it back to our own lives.
During the pandemic, each one of us has (temporarily) had an aspect of a dream, goal, ambition or desire halted. We were all thrown off. Now, more than ever, the Seder represents the inner fight and exile we are all trying to break free from. It couldn’t have come at a better time. As spring is beginning to show, and people are beginning to get vaccinated, we are all facing our own awakenings, as well.
These three major tenets of the Passover Seder discussion especially stood out this year, and I am grateful I got to be a part of a Seder where we discussed these values:
Gratitude – I, like many others, lost my job last year, and am so grateful to be back in a role. But during that time where I wasn’t working, I really got to explore the Jewish community and take many weekly classes from local Rabbis. I got to volunteer more, write more, and really meet and connect with people that I may not have been able to, otherwise. There are many things that we all can be grateful for.
Faith – When we have Emunah (Hebrew for faith), we realize that we are exactly where we’re meant to be in life, and that we have a specific role that only we can fulfill. This still maintains, even in the pandemic, and possibly even more so. Many people in the community stepped up, raised money, volunteered, called others, and spread cheer that they may not have had the opportunity to do otherwise. Mitzvahs were and continue to abound, and there is no shortage of those beautiful acts of kindness around our community.
Including others – I learned this important lesson in one of the worst places that one could see in life. A few years ago, I was at the Majdanek Concentration camp, staring at a pile of our ancestral human ashes. It was there that our Rabbi leading the trip told us that it had been customary during Seders to leave open chairs to represent those who lost their lives during the Holocaust. It then became customary to invite those who may have nowhere to go to the Seder table.
There is always a place for everyone at the “Seder table”, and in life. May we all strive to include one another – whether that be in an activity or when we’re providing a listening ear for someone. We’re all here together; though we take our own separate paths, we meet each other along the way.
Though the Seders are over for this year, may their lessons remain, and may we continue taking ourselves and our peers to higher places with omnipresent positivity and motivation.
Vilona Trachtenberg is a Distribution Coordinator at New Era Cap and serves as Chair of Community Engagement for the Holocaust Resource Center of Buffalo.