THE OTHER SEDER / NITZAVIM
With Michelle Janes and Jonathan Arkush
Today’s Ma’alot update brings a double-header of pre-Rosh Hashanah inspiration
- Michelle Janes, Co-CEO of the Jewish Leadership Council shares her experiences of her family’s ‘other’ Seder
- Jonathan Arkush, former President of the Board of Deputies, reflects on this week’s Torah portion, Nitzavim
THE OTHER SEDER…
By Michelle Janes
I want to begin this reflection by saying how grateful I am to my Uncle Yousef z’l and Auntie Matilda. Their dining table was a place where I felt included, immersed, and welcomed as a child. It was the place we celebrated as a family, where I grew to learn more about my heritage, customs, and the history of my people. The festival meals together were part of grounding me in a love for my Judaism in a way that was only possible through living the experience – just a part of my Jewish Journey.
Every year, just before Rosh Hashanah, I hold a picture in my mind. That of the seder table. Yes, the seder table. In my Iraqi Egyptian family, I grew up with two sedarim. One at Pesach and one at Rosh Hashanah. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I realised that not everyone had two sedarim though. Is this the one with the sticky page or the one with the pomegranate? I remember asking as a child.
The Rosh Hashanah seder has been something I have embraced into adulthood and now celebrate as a part of my family journey. I’m inevitably a bit too last minute about buying some of the ingredients and the food shortages in the shops over the last year or so have made me all the more mindful of the sourcing of the food we eat. I think of how my family have put the same food on the table for decades. How we have recited the brachot (blessings) and talked about how the world could be made a better place by us and others.
The symbolic food has sparked discussion and creativity. As someone who loves to cook and explore recipes, I will always challenge myself to try something new for Rosh Hashanah. To attempt something I haven’t before. To face the possibility of failure, of things not quite going to plan but going with the flow.
The seder brings order to our thinking. A pattern to our celebration. A rhythm to our time to pause, thank and rejoice.
As I search for the ingredients, plan the meals, research the recipes, lay the table, I feel a weight of responsibility. One heavy enough to remind me it’s there but not so much to drag me down. One I feel proud to hold and aspire to reach. One of a table that is welcoming, a space to learn, a place to feel part of celebrating. One that embraces the historical ritual and challenges ideas with new practice we add to the rhythm of our journeys. One that I enjoy with those close to me and feel more connected to each year.
It’s the one with the pomegranate this month and in a few months it’s the one with the sticky page!
Shana Tova U’metuka. May it be a sweet, happy, and healthy New Year for us all.
You can learn more about some of the rituals and foods connected with a Rosh Hashanah seder by reading this piece by Rahel Musleah from MyJewishLearning.com
LIMMUD ON ONE LEG – NITZAVIM
By Jonathan Arkush
The Limmud On One Leg weekly email brings you a chance to learn about the parasha (Torah reading) from some of our most exciting and innovative volunteer Jewish educators. This week Jonathan Arkush shares his reflections on Nitzavim.