This year was my best Passover in decades. The ghost of my dead Grandpa William Braiterman did not pay his annual, unwelcome, uninvited Passover visit. His memory seriously disrupts my favorite holiday. Some years, I experience post-traumatic stress for a whole month.
He even finds me at wonderful Seders with my sister’s family in Buffalo, relatives I really like.
This year, I was a “Passover orphan.” Pesach is too embedded in my soul and the physical world to ignore, but I could not afford separate trips to my sister’s and my best friend’s wedding in May.
Fortunately, the Haggadah says “Kol dichfin yaitei v’yaichol. Kol ditzrich yeitei v’yifsach; Let all who are hungry come and eat; all who are in need, come and celebrate Passover with us.” Jews must invite Passover orphans to their Seders. Like many congregations, TBJ finds Seders for anyone who asks.
Second Seder at Temple Beth Jacob in Concord, NH, which I joined in 2010, was a good partial answer. Public thanks to the Gaby and Katz families for inviting me to their first Seder. Their children kept me “in the moment,” and Pop Pop’s ghost stayed away.
Lots of Jews have emotional problems around Passover. Lots of Christians do around Christmas for the same reason. These are the big annual family holidays, celebrated mostly at home, with layers of family-specific memories and traditions. It’s when many people see relatives they only see once a year.
Any negative feelings people have about their families come into sharpest focus at these holidays. So do memories of loved ones who died or moved away. For many people, like me, calling these feelings “holiday blues” trivializes some serious emotional distress.
Which is worse, going to my family and risking a personal crisis, or not, and creating a family crisis? There was no crisis in my family when I Sedered with temple friends. My sister is happy my “ghost sickness” stayed away. My fanily understands that Pop-Pop Will’s galactic vanity broke my heart, and the wound is a continuing source of pain that might never heal.
He rejected and betrayed me when I was 30, after I sacrificed my health fulfilling the dream he pushed on e from the time I was born. When I gave up devoting my life to preserving the Jewish people, and ghost-writing his autobiography, telling the world what a great man he was, he called me a maladjusted screw-up with a rotten work ethic. Worst of all, I rejected his unwelcome effort to make me a mensch by yelling at me. I thought I already was one.
My Temple Beth Jacob connection has given me Passover without crisis.