Passover wins the prize for the Jewish holiday most likely to be celebrated. I suspect this is true because, at the bare minimum, celebrating can be accomplished by merely showing up for dinner. For those of us who actually provide the dinner the ritual Seder meal the maximum is usually required: weeks of planning, preparation, shopping, cleaning, cooking. Despite these efforts, however, just attending a Seder can be hard work, especially if no one understands what is going on, and the goal is simply to get at the food. Guidance is the answer and how-to books on Passover abound, but they usually read like reference books, giving dry entries on the history of the Seder. Marge Piercy's new book, however, is a pleasure to read. Pesach for the Rest of Us: Making the Passover Seder Your Own is an extraordinary examination of what should be an extraordinary ritual event.
Just who is the rest of us? Piercy answers this right away: folks who are not Orthodox, and who are searching for mindful ways to connect with Passover. The book is organized into chapters that focus on key steps or elements of the Seder, such as the four questions, the four children, matzoh, wine and maror (bitter herbs). These are peppered with personal memories and musings, choice recipes, historical reference points and blessings. Readers can dip into this feast for quick, practical information, or savor it cover to cover to enjoy the poetic flow of Piercy's prose. Either way, Seders everywhere will benefit. Piercy's suggestions, insights and queries will motivate readers to create a Seder that is much more than a race to the meal. This unexpected treat from an acclaimed poet and novelist belongs on the table of everyone or, at least, the rest of us interested in making a Seder meaningful.
Joanna Brichetto tries to conduct mindful Seders every year.