* Edited to add – This post is a few days late. I had intended to post this last week before I headed off to a seder while people shouted in my wake – “You’re going to a seder? But you’re not religious!”
This will not be a post explaining Judaism. But in case anyone is curious (hi, 3 people who read this) I will list herein some ways in which I and my family observe Jewish ritual and tradition:
- Our every day language is sprinkled with Yiddish phrases we learned from our grandmothers (and some of them are words you also use): schlep, schluff, tuchus, to name a few. I call Nomi “Nomaleh” so often that one of the little girls in her class now calls her that too.
- We celebrate Hanukkah with small gifts, candles, songs, donuts and latkes. Sometimes I tell myself that fried chicken or jalapeno poppers are appropriate foods that celebrate the “fried in oil” tradition of Hanukkah.
- We help our family decorate their sukkah – though we haven’t had one of our own yet.
- We have Shabbat dinners on most Friday nights.
- Sometimes our Shabbat dinners are traditional roast chicken, potatoes, challah sort of meals.
- Sometimes they are Chinese takeout.
- Sometimes we invite the neighbors over for a pizza party because more than anything Shabbat is about being together with people we love.
- I light the candles and say the blessing because traditionally it’s the wife’s/mother’s role.
- Adam says the blessing over the wine because in our daily division of labor, wine always falls into his jurisdiction. Unrelated to Judaism: he’s also almost always the one who remembers to run the dishwasher once it’s full so dishes might naturally fall into his jurisdiction as well.
- We enjoy sharing family dinners around holidays. Family dinners are important, and I like the traditional foods and the singing. Although no one ever gets the whole way through the Had Gadya song, and everyone tires of singing in general long before I have and I’m always the one left singing by myself (is ANYONE OUT THERE really surprised by this?)
- While I don’t fast or go to services anymore, I always host a Yom Kippur break fast for friends and family. If the book of life has been sealed for the year, you should celebrate with a bagel and a mimosa, no?
And here is a list of people that no one ever asks “Why are YOU celebrating Christmas? You’re not religious!”
- People who don’t go to church every Sunday.
- People who don’t go to church ANY Sunday.
- People who cheat on their spouses.
- People who cheat on their taxes.
- People who do not always treat others as they would like to be treated.
- People who don’t stop and ask “what would Jesus do.”
For some reason it’s not unusual for someone to celebrate just Christmas and Easter. But it seems to me that if you’re Jewish and you celebrate more than just Hanukkah, you have to answer a lot more questions. Sukkot? What is that? I didn’t know you were so religious! But I saw you eat that bacon! And you still don’t celebrate Christmas?
I am grateful that I live in a time and place (mostly – I’ll save my rant on women’s rights for another day I suppose) where I can choose how to incorporate Judaism into my life and my family’s traditions. So tonight, we will join our family for a Passover seder. And then it’s likely that tomorrow we will wake up and head to the diner for bacon and eggs. Shalom!