Growing up, Passover (Pesach) overtook the spring curriculum in my school. Weeks were spent studying the Haggadah, creating our own, learning the laws and practices that had been passed down through generations.
“The most important thing is to tell the story of the Exodus,” I remember one teacher explaining. “Even if one is having a seder alone, they should still tell the story, read it to themselves and speak what happened.”
I remember the image that came to my mind, a forlorn adult sitting at a beautifully set table, whispering the words all alone. I remember the pang of sadness that came over me, and how I comforted myself, dismissing the image with the knowledge that no one was really alone, that Pesach was a time of family and community, that surely everyone had someone to tell the story to.
The Seder is a time for togetherness. After all, the story we tell is not a story of an individual, but of a people. It was through the Exodus, the horrors and the miracles, that the Jews became a nation. They grew united through their days of affliction, through the splitting of the sea, through taking their terrified steps into the unknown.
But more than that, the seder is a time for stories.
I’ve thought about those early lessons from elementary school over the years; I just never got it. Why should an individual observing alone have to tell the story to themselves? Can’t they just have their wine and matzah and call it a night?
I see it differently now. Because within the story of the nation is the story of individuals, thousands, now millions, of people who weathered those hardships, took leaps of faith, saw the world change before their eyes.
And when you tell yourself that story, when you are both the narrator and the listener, you and the story are one. The story becomes part of your being, and it shows you who you really are, the incredible deeds you are capable of.
Today we are alone and not alone and we need stories desperately. I feel beyond blessed to be celebrating with my immediate family, and though we’ll be telling the Pesach story together, I am going to make sure I tell myself the story too.
I am wishing everyone stories of hope and courage and love, to those who celebrate and to those who don’t. Tell yourself your story, and may it strengthen and nourish you for the days to come.