Why We Chose to Have our Seder Alone
By: Rachel Goldsmith Kew Garden Hills, NY
I have a close friend who once told me that she and her husband were having Seder alone. At the time, I thought that sounded like the most depressing scenario ever, and I worked hard to convince her to spend a holiday meal with me and my husband. Having grown up at big family sedarim, I could not even fathom what a seder attended by two would even look like. I hate to admit it, but I was a little bit judgemental of them for being sooo antisocial.
Fast forward to three years later:
When others heard that my husband and I were having our Seder alone this year, they quickly invited us to theirs, assuming it was because we had nowhere to go. B”H we had invites (as baalei teshuva, we haven’t always had invites, so this is actually a very genuine gratitude). Pesach is a holiday where people should be with their family. According to the Haggadah, the whole point of the holiday is to tell our children all about when we were freed from slavery in Egypt. Seders across the world are usually held in a room full of happy people, with children running around. But not in our home. As of now, our little family is comprised of only two.
My husband and I have reached a point where we no longer want to be bystanders, observing how others hand down the story of the Exodus to their children. We truly long to be teaching our own. When you’re enduring the test of infertility, most holidays are difficult. For me, Pesach is the worst. Over the past three years, Pesach transformed from my favorite holiday (really!) to my most dreaded, most emotionally challenging time of year. This is the time when we’re supposed to pass our traditions to the next generation, but we still don’t know if and when our next generation will begin to be built.
Pesach was always a “north star” on the infertility compass for me. This year, we’re entrapped in loneliness; next year, we should be (in Jerusalem) making a seder for a table filled with our own children. The week before last Pesach, our reproductive endocrinologist told us that we needed to prepare ourselves for a future filled with IVF cycles; by Shavuos, we were well into our first cycle. When we got pregnant from a frozen transfer last summer, we were due during Pesach, until that ended in a miscarriage. I would have been devastated by this news regardless, but now I had to worry about how I would face another Pesach with just the two of us. I don’t intend to sound bitter or depressing. Sometimes, I am grateful for all the time G-d has given us to devote to building our marriage. I also enjoy the luxury of uninterrupted time to curl up with a book, or (especially before Pesach) having my home remain just as neat and tidy as I’ve left it. But as much as I can try to think about the plus sides, they seem like a small consolation for this very big nesayon (test of faith).
So this year, we took back Pesach. Instead of another dreaded year of plastering on smiles and pretending to be joyously celebrating the holiday, we decided to stay home, where we could openly cry to Hashem all we wanted. I sobbed through my husband’s drasha on the four sons and, without anyone else there, I felt so free to do so. We read stories of tzadikim, miracles, and of future generations. We used the seder night as an opportunity to connect with each other and with Hashem, and to learn and pray, rather than just as a painful reminder of what’s lacking in our lives.
I know that many of my friends and compatriots in the “infertile” club don’t have this luxury due to family obligations. And I know that for many of you, seder night surrounded by your nieces and nephews is often a funny mix of awesome and painful, all in one. But if you have the chance to set aside a little time to step away from all the holiday chaos and just focus, and let your emotions run through you in full-force if you like, I highly recommend it.
May we all experience open miracles and liberation from that which holds us captive!