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A peculiar seder…

Hello Hivemind, I have a situation to present to you followed by a dilemma. I’ll start by explaining the context and then laying out the dilemma.

I have many Jewish friends, of all walks of life, and of all levels of observance. But for the purpose of this story, I will focus on three of them. A friend of my mother’s who once randomly engaged me in a conversation about physics, which defined my entire life afterwards. Secular. My adpotive father, a patrilineal Jew, son of an survivor, and a secular kabbalist. The guy studies kabbalah three hours every morning before starting the day. No. I never figured out why. My neighbour, a survivor, who basically decided the Shoah was her best reason to assimilate.

I have a close relationship with all three. Until two years ago, my knowledge of Judaism was very limited. Albeit better than the average person. I didn’t know the intricacies of halacha and thought the Talmud was a pocket handbook of ancient wisdom. But I knew what you would consider the basics.

I always believed in G.d, but was raised Christian. I attended sunday school of two different christian denominations but found myself dissatisfied. I did not get the answers I sought, and my local catholic clergy soon had enough of the annoying kid asking hard questions. The Protestant temple encouraged me, but didn’t have more guidance to offer. I tried to look at other religions, thinking that, logically, someone would have the answers I sought. But I couldn’t get many answers where I was. So I decided to shelve the matter indefinitely, deciding to stick to what I was sure of. There is a G.d, and you should try and live a moral life.

Two years ago, I had a discussion that prompted me to investigate the Jewish perspective. I have been studying on my own ever since. There is a satisfying logic to the Jewish perspective in my opinion. I have entertained the thought of c0nv3rt1ng a few times. I am not there yet, although I can’t deny a growing attraction to the idea, this is a slow thing. I am a very slow and deliberate thinker. For now though, I reason that before taking on a full set of mitzvot, I should make certain I do the ones I am commanded to properly. But that is anyway not the topic. This is just context. I did adapt my lifestyle in that direction though. No more mixing dairy and meat, no more pork, taking the habit to wait six hours after eating meat to consume halavi. Praying more. Reading psalms. Setting the shabbat aside for doing things I don’t do the rest of the week. To name a few.

My neighbour has had an accident in Jerusalem last year… for pessach. Stayed in hospital a month, thought she’d die. And ever since she came back, she has been reminiscing on her youth and the events that happened then. Her husband died two years ago, and she has been alone since. I’m keeping her company from time to time.

A little out of the blue, after coming back from Jerusalem myself in September of 2023, I decided to show up for sukkot to keep her company with the four species. A little puzzled, I explained to her the meaning of these. And she remembered her childhood. We didn’t build a sukka though.

Given the positive reaction, when hannukah came around, I once again went to the local Jewish market and got a bunch of oil candles. Drilled 9 holes in a wooden board to improvise a hannukiah. And every night, I visited, we lit the candles, I told her about it, and then we talked about things for an hour or too. But lighting the candles and reciting prayers and blessings made me feel like an impostor more than once. Who the heck did I think I was to try and reconnect my neighbour to her roots? I thought perhaps I should talk to someone. A Rav, perhaps. Someone more knowledgeable and kosher than I for such things. But the problem is, my neighbour and the other people I mentioned, would no longer have any interest in that case.

Again, she was delighted. We even played with a dreidl. With a 90 year old woman, that’s an amusing experience, if a little surreal.

I repeated the experience for purim. I did not dress up. But I did bring her a basket and talked about the events of the book of Esther.

And now pessach is around the corner, and naturally I was thinking of inviting her over to eat something for the occasion. Obviously, for various reasons, chief of them my being a goy, this won’t be a “by the book” seder. To be honest, initially I didn’t even think about making a seder. It’s just that I invited that neighbour and the two other people I mentioned at the start to eat… and jokingly called it a seder… until I realised it HAD to be a seder.

I am facing the same impostor syndrome as for hannukah. I want to do this for my friends. Yet I have the weird feeling I would be disrespecting this. This comes from a good place. But I am not certain it is a good thing to actually do. But consider that none of them would attend any seder at all if not for my invitation. It is that, or nothing. I figure that I should go ahead for that reason alone. If only for the symbol. But I am not sure to what degree. And I can’t really picture myself leading a seder. No matter how much I can read on it, I don’t think I’d be at my place.

Obviously, no matter what is done, that won’t be halachically valid in any measure. So the consideration is here to be as close and accurate to what it should really be, as can be achieved. And perhaps more importantly, make sure my guests enjoy it.

Advice? Opinions? Note that those concern my dilemma, as well any related input. Like things I could cook for my guests.

I expect I may get sharp opinions in response to this from some. It was difficult for me to write about, I accept that it may be seen as offensive for various reasons, but I would ask not to be judged too harshly in that case. Thank you, in advance. And my apologies.

I have observant Jewish friends I could ask the question to… but I fear the ridicule. Not from their reaction. But from me, melting in shame at the idea of walking up to a frum friend and telling them “Hey, by the way I’m doing a seder, you have advice for me?”. Even asking online is no piece of cake.

submitted by /u/Cipher_Nyne
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