Across The Universe: Lessons learned from first-ever Passover Seder |

Across The Universe: Lessons learned from first-ever Passover Seder

Kevin MacMillan

RENO, Nev. — On Saturday, I participated in my first-ever Passover Seder, the annual ritual feast that marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover.

It was a very enjoyable event, and incredibly educational. My friend in Reno, she’s a Jew, as is her mother, and it’s been a tradition for their family to host a Passover Seder each year so friends and family — Jews and non-Jews — could participate.

Think of it as a “Friends-giving,” which many younger Tahoe-Truckee residents partake in due to the challenges associated with traveling home for the holidays.

Roughly 20 of us were on hand, the majority of whom were not Jews, and many (myself included) were fairly oblivious to most facets of the Jewish faith.

We kept it very light and casual, because as much as it was important for everyone to participate in the retelling of the story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt, it was also important for everyone (i.e. the non-Jews) to feel welcome and accepted. The Seder is reportedly the most commonly celebrated of Jewish rituals, and a big focus of it is for everyone to rejoice in the celebration of freedom.

The evening consisted of readings from around the table from a shortened version of the “Haggadah,” a Jewish text that sets forth the order of the Seder.

Inter-mixed with the readings were various rituals associated with items on the Seder plate, dining on traditional foods as part of the Seder meal, discussion and reflection on the history of Judaism — and a lot of red wine, as drinking four cups while discussing the story is part of the tradition.

It turned out to be a great evening with friends, food and discussion, and outside of the readings and rituals new to me, I felt completely comfortable in my surroundings. One of the things that struck me so vividly was how welcoming people were to someone who was outside the inner circle, so to speak.

The other thing that was so vivid was the level of depth in the discussions we had about the history of Judaism and the atrocities that Jews were faced with in ancient Egypt — even touching on the Holocaust and World War II.

For just a few hours, going back in time in such a real way during an event like a Passover Seder was truly inspiring. It did so much more for me than reading anything out of a history book or on a web page could ever do.

Coming from a small farm town in mid-Michigan, I was raised Catholic and grew up in a fairly conservative-Republican part of the country. That kind of upbringing tends to make one forget that it’s just one small slice of the world, in terms of belief, religion and so much more.

So whether it’s a Passover Seder or some other religious or otherwise belief-aided ritual, I encourage everyone to take part in something new and different at least once in their life. At the least, you’re bound to learn a thing or two.

Kevin MacMillan is managing editor of the Sierra Sun. He may be reached at

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