Passover, It’s What’s Not For Dinner: 7 Uncomfortable Questions To Ask Oneself This Passover Season
by Dr. Abi Weissman
About Passover, in brief:
Passover is a major holiday in the Jewish religion. It is WAY more important than Chanukah religiously. Passover, otherwise known as Pesach, represents the time that we Jews left enslavement for freedom. It is commemorated by a festive meal and 8 days of not eating certain foods – those that would have needed the time to rise - time that we didn’t have as we fled our enslavement in Egypt. Okay, some say 7 days, but others say the holiday lasts 8 days. Debate as you will. :) Many people who keep Kosher for Passover, follow its traditions around food, including eating Matzah and other ritual foods like Charoset (that represents the mortar between the bricks Jews used to build with; Please see this link for more information and recipes at https://www.thoughtco.com/symbols-of-the-seder-plate-2076486 ) and not eating leavened items such as bread and cake. (Did I mention bread?) Some don’t eat rice, beans, corn and corn products, and olives and olive products, (called kiniyot) and others do. Jewish traditions change depending on where people are from. There are Ashkenazi Jews and Ashkenazi traditions and Sephardic Jews and Sephardic traditions and other wonderful Jewish cultures and traditions from around the world. For more information about the variety and complexity of Jews and our traditions, please see the Jewish Multiracial Network at http://www.jewishmultiracialnetwork.org/
For many Jews, this holiday is also about what we can’t eat (thus the title of this blog is a takeoff on the commercials about pork – the not Kosher white meat ). One main topic of conversation about this holiday is how to survive it, gastrointestinally-speaking. For more information about how to survive this holiday and people’s tendency towards constipation and resulting gas, please talk to your medical doctor. That’s out of my scope of practice. :) Personally, I do like the blog posts by the Jewish Food Hero on how to thrive through the physically painful parts of the holiday at http://jewishfoodhero.com/dear-jewish-food-hero-how-to-avoid-bathroom-blues-during-passover/ but if you are in physical pain, please contact your medical health specialist.
And now back to the rest of my blog:
It snuck up on me. Again.
Here are my 7 uncomfortable questions:
1. Every year, I feel like I think that Passover is months away until it’s in 2 or 3 days and then, I feel stuck in confusion: how do I want to commemorate this tradition?
Here’s my favorite link to Passover rituals: https://ritualwell.org/passover and general thoughts about the holiday and its traditions.
2. Do I want to have community members over? If so, from which community?
3. Do I want to go to a community Seder?
a. If so, how can I make sure it is vegetarian-friendly?
b. Queer friendly?
4. Does anyone else celebrate Passover or am I stuck in the middle of a world where there is Easter and not one person around me is commemorating these traditions?
5. Should I go back to the East Coast and be with family?
a. Which family? Blood? Or Chosen?
6. Should I take off from work?
7. As I sit here, nibbling on (corn) chips and salsa, I’m wondering, will I be eating kiniyot this year or not? Relatively recent Rabbinical sources have declared kiniyot to be a-ok for Passover, but it’s different than how I grew up so each year, I debate.
My decisions will be made, as they are every year, by some combination of the traditions I grew up with, my community and family’s availability to share in this holiday’s preparation and commemoration, and my own social justice ways.
What I don't usually think about, however, is how much religious identity plays into my other identities and general life experience (It’s good old intersectionality for the win!) and how I need to make time for emotional experiences around Passover.
So, this year, I will mull over my decisions.
I will journal about my feelings related to Passover.
I will read about it. My current favorite links to study are Keshet’s guide to hosting an LGBTQ Passover Seder at http://www.keshetonline.org/resources/library/lgbtq-inclusive-passover-resource-collection/ and Rabbi Ruth Adar’s Tweets at https://twitter.com/CoffeeShopRabbi .
And, I will bring the topic of Passover ritual up with loved ones if I need to talk about it.
I encourage you to do the same. If religion is important to you, please bring it up in therapy.
Talking about religious identity and how it fits into one’s life (or doesn’t) can be a part of therapy and quite often can lead to fruitful discussions about identity, community, religion, practice, and sense of self in the world.
In short, if the topic is important to the client, then it is an important topic for clinicians to make space for during the session.
While I’m not a Rabbi or Minister or Pastor, as a religion – aware psychologist, I do believe that it is important for clients to know that they can bring all of themselves, including their religious, or not so religious, parts with them to therapy. In fact, I encourage it.
A Zissen Pesach (sweet Passover in Yiddish) to you and yours,
Dr. Abi Weissman
California Licensed Psychologist PSY 27497
As always, this blog provides general information only and should not be seen as evidence of a therapeutic relationship. Please consult with an individual licensed psychologist, counselor, or clinician for individual help.