Three big events happened for the first time this week.
One, I went to my first Seder spoken completely in Hebrew. Two, I tried gefilte fish for the first time. Three, I baked without giving anyone food poisoning. OK so maybe I want to brag about the last two events, but I really want to focus on the first one.
A couple weeks ago, my boyfriend, who’s Israeli, invited me to have Seder at his parent’s house on Monday along with his relatives visiting from Israel. Flattered to be invited, I knew going into it that the language barrier could pose a problem. Aside from a couple key words I’ve picked up, my Hebrew wasn’t nearly as up to par as everyone else.
Additionally, every year my family reads the Haggadah in English along with a couple of the traditional prayers in Hebrew. So as you probably figured by now, I was praying for transliteration (later to find out I also had illustrations in the Haggadah that evening). But, of course, putting all my hesitation aside, I accepted the invite.
As expected, the readings were completely in Hebrew and, similar to my family’s Seder, the dinner was a large family affair. The youngest child, who is eight, read aloud the four questions, better than I could probably read them, and each person took a turn at leading different parts of the Seder throughout the evening. But the further into the Seder we got, the less of an issue the language barrier became.
The little Hebrew I knew cued me in on some of the conversations while I also tried to keep my English as relatively simple as possible. Even with just smiling, “the universal symbol of happiness,” I came to realize that the hesitation I had about coming to a Seder read completely in Hebrew was really an issue that I had been fighting with myself. It wasn’t a matter of how fluently I could speak or how fast I could keep up, but about sharing the holiday with a person who I care about, and leaving my comfort zone to experience something foreign.
This holiday season, I challenge you to try something completely new. Attempt to eat horseradish if you haven’t before or try to read a paragraph in Hebrew if you typically read in English. Make it a memorable holiday, and may new traditions come because of it.