A window into Judaism: My first Passover seder was a learning experience


My longstanding interest in religious traditions, particularly those involving food and customs, led to a captivating experience at around this time last year: my first Passover seder. While I possessed some familiarity with Judaism, gleaned from books and academic sources, I soon discovered that the seder would be a true learning experience.

After being welcomed and seated, I received a haggadah, a text that I learned would guide our shared reading and the ceremonial use of wine. This signaled a unique encounter, far exceeding the holiday celebrations of my mostly secular upbringing.

Throughout the seder, the significance of Passover for those present became readily apparent. It highlighted the contrasting nature of my own faith, rooted in individual morals and a general sense of benevolence.

The rituals and traditions, coupled with a palpable sense of connection to the liberation story and their ancestors’ escape from Egypt, fostered a sense of warmth and a deeper understanding of Passover’s centrality to the Jewish faith. The haggadah itself unfolded like a narrative, seamlessly blending practice with traditions. Notably, it seemed designed to welcome newcomers and facilitate their comprehension of the story and its observance.

Through this shared narrative, I gained insight into the symbolism of key rituals: the hand-washing ceremony, the consumption of the four cups of wine, the significance of matzah, and more.

Since an exploration of culture and faith often intersects with food, the menu further piqued my interest. While the matzah ball soup and matzah popover were intriguing, the  haroset captivated me, not only for its sweet taste but also for its symbolic representation of the mortar used by the Israelites when they were slaves in Egypt.

Every facet of the seder pulsed with meaning. Observing with the assembled group offered a profound glimpse into Jewish traditions, and I appreciated the sincere effort to provide me with a meaningful experience. Though not the youngest participant, I was entrusted with the honor of reciting the Four Questions – a significant role in the ritual that underscores the generations-long tradition of questioning and exploration.

Even though I am not Jewish, I was welcomed to the seder with open arms. The inclusion and education I received throughout the evening fostered a sense of belonging and immersion in the rituals. And as the other guests shared their personal seder stories from years past, any sense I had of being an outsider melted away.

My first Passover seder left me eager to participate in other holidays and further enrich my understanding of the Jewish faith.

MARK ANTHONY HARDY has a background in creative marketing and is the creative producer of Angelwood Pictures.