by Rabbi Jill Levy, Director of the The Bobbi and Vic Samuels Center for Jewish Living and Learning
Disclaimer: This is not a prescriptive post. I am not writing this to convince others to be like me. I am sharing my process as a way to help people think through the big question – “What does it mean to live Jewishly”?
I should start off by admitting that to the general Jewish population my Passover practice still seems pretty “religious”. We clean our house and cars, hide and burn our chametz. We do not eat out during the holiday week. But this year, I did not kasher or change out my dishes and we bought and ate certain foods, that while free of chametz, did not contain Kosher for Passover certification.
Once I got past the guilt I realized that these decisions are what felt right for me and my family. The question remains, am I now “less religious” or “less Jewish”? While I could spend the remainder of this post arguing the finer points of kashrut or what it means to moadim l’simcha, engage with the holiday in joy, that is not the point.
I take my spiritual, moral and religious life seriously. Passover is important to me. When I cleaned my house I thought about all the “schmutz” in my life that I need to get rid of, just like the chametz. We prepared our kids for the Seder and made sure we had fun games to keep them engaged throughout. We ate enough different foods throughout the week that we were constantly conscious that it was a different time than the rest of the year. I thought about how lucky I am to be an American citizen and not a refugee whose life is in danger.
Passover works but I didn’t need to kasher my dishes or buy Kosher for Passover yogurt to take the holiday seriously. I identified the pieces of the practice that made sense to me and embraced them. I then set aside the others and decided to take an indefinite break. There are those who will say you can’t “pick and choose”. I would like to argue that we can and we should. If our tradition is going to thrive then we have to allow it to work for us. We should do those things that challenge us to become better people and to enrich our lives with meaning. For many people, strict adherence to rules works. For others, the rules drive us away.
What does it mean to live Jewishly? It means taking the commitment to Jewish living and learning seriously and not compromising Jewish connection out of fear of what others will think. Let’s share our stories and celebrate our Jewish choices together.