Jessica SieffOnce again it's the time of year when the seasons change and I want to sleep with the windows open so I can smell the air, walk until the sun sinks below the horizon and feel the earth take a deep breath beneath my feet.

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Jessica Sieff: Having faith in matzo balls

Published 8:15am Friday, April 9, 2010

It’s the time of year when we pack up our matzo ball soup, our bottles of wine, chopped liver and our patience and head up for the annual family gathering for the Passover seder.

The holiday, my favorite, always seems like a break in the year for me.

A chance to take a minute and remember something important before moving on.

As it happens, that’s exactly what it is.

My family, often progressive in areas where I am traditional, has as of late wanted to deviate from the routine of sitting around a big table all together to read from the same book we do year after year.

There are motions to this ceremony, blessings over the wine we drink and the food that we eat and the lessons that we’re retelling and it is all done in such a way, almost like a choreographed dance, for a very important reason.

Traditions like these are almost too vulnerable these days.

More and more, people want to change the game, and sometimes change is innovative and productive. And sometimes, for example, trying to develop related themes because we feel we need something more interesting to talk about than our own stories, trying to switch up the ceremony by drawing weak correlation between the Exodus and Rahm Emanuel is sad, really.

It was heartbreakingly disappointing to hear them, one by one, talk of what Passover meant to them – and not a single one mentioned the actual point of the holiday.

Passover is an amazing story about faith.

We retell it every year because we have to be reminded that our very being is a journey and that journey isn’t always fun.

Plagues are not fun. Wandering in the desert is not fun. And trying to find ourselves and have a little faith in ourselves when we’re filled with uncertainty isn’t fun.

Still there’s this admirable hero who has to figure out who he is when he finds out everything he’s always believed in was just part of a bigger picture (we’re talking about Moses here). There’s the villain with the complicated, “we grew up together” angle.

There’s the nation of people who this Moses guy has to suddenly shepherd out of enslavement, putting his leadership skills to the test, there are the 10 plagues and then that crescendo of a moment when the Red Sea just parts … Enough drama for a TNT miniseries.

But more importantly, lots and lots of faith. And faith is the point.

It’s a story of an entire nation, grandfathers, fathers, mothers, grandmothers, sisters and brothers, friends and neighbors, who woke every morning to unimaginable suffering and yet met every evening with a faith strong enough that they never abandoned it.

Even when it seemed like relief would never come.

Makes Mondays seem doable.

It’s a story of a man who had to have faith in a God and later, a God who would have to have faith in a nation strong enough to never abandon it.

It’s a story about sisters having faith in brothers and brothers having faith in each other, and that faith is the undercurrent for how a nation moved itself forward out of some of its darkest times.

And we read the story, the same way, year after year, because faith is like a routine.

And it’s one routine that can get lost among the chaos of life.

And when that routine is lost it loses the point.

Because we all have those times when things get dark and we wake in the morning to the questions of how will we meet the night … and if once a year we have to sit down and systematically remember that ours is a faith that endures, it seems like a gift rather than a burden.

Because faith is just the beginning.

It doesn’t have to be in a single entity. It can be our parents. Our children. Our work. Our country. Ourselves.

Thankfully Passover was this week and I was reminded you have to have faith in something or someone, somewhere in some way – or when people tell you, you “won’t go far,” you won’t.

In one pretty cool story, a whole bunch of people were told they wouldn’t get very far either. But they had a little faith in their own will, the man who was leading them and whatever else it was they needed to go on.

And they went as far as one could imagine.

For those who have forgotten, the point of Passover is to remember not to reinvent.

Without faith, it’ll be hard to believe you’ll get anywhere.

Jessica Sieff is a reporter for Leader Publications.
Reach her at

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