How To Celebrate Passover In Paradise

I begin all my classes saying, this is a safe environment with no judgment. The same holds true for this piece. Let’s leave the judging to G-d, okay?

I would like to share that Judaism is not all or nothing. So if you are not planning on having matzo ball soup on your bubby’s china and your Seder plate isn’t going to be the one your grandparents brought over from Hungary, that doesn’t mean you can’t fulfill the positive Torah commandment of having a Seder. It may look a little different but that’s okay!

Seder night is a super important night for us Jews. Bruce Feiler wrote an article that fascinated me in The New York Times called The Family Stories that Bind Us.” The article talks about the benefits of kids having a strong family narrative to get them through tough times. If you think about it, we as a nation, are slightly obsessed with the Passover narrative. We talk about it while sanctifying Shabbat over the kiddush wine. It is mentioned in the Shema which we have a mitzvah to say not once but twice daily. All this for something that happened thousands of years ago.

When my husband was growing up, on each of his and his sibling’s birthdays, his mother, before putting them to bed, would detail their birth story. With all the kids (6 in total!) crowded around the birthday child’s bed, my mother-in-law would go over the day of their birth. Until this day, his fond recollections of his birthday story are a memory he savors. As Jews, we also have a special birthday story. That is the story of Passover. The exodus of Egypt was not just a “special event” in our history, it was the birth of our nation! Now, if honoring Passover seems to you as simply an ancient commemorative ritual, I’d like to make you aware that this is actually a dynamic and timeless holiday. We are not just having a seder to remember the past, but each of the mitzvot we perform at the seder helps us unlock and reveal lessons relevant to each of us today!

With spring break falling on Passover this year, let’s be real, many people will be traveling. The good news is, I Googled top 10 places to go on spring break and then I searched for a Chabad in each one…they all have a Chabad House!!! (Cancun, Miami Beach, South Padre Island, Bahamas, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Puerto Rico, Punta Cana, Jamaica and Panama City Beach.)

People are so into giving their kiddos diverse experiences, well here you go, this will be a very diverse experience! It will also be very easy for you. You reach out to them, pay online and show up. This is why they live there, for people like you seeking a Jewish experience while on vacay.

If that’s not your cup of wine…here are some alternative options:

What could be cozier than celebrating in your hotel room? I have tried to make a comprehensive list of what you will need.

Start by budgeting in an extra suitcase that you should pack from home:

  • A box of matzah wrapped in bubble wrap and then put in a larger box
  • Softcover Haggadahs see here for some options.

The following items can be purchased before you take off. They will probably be accessible at Target or Party City – (you know as well as I do that you will be in Target G-d knows how many times between now and when you bon voyage)

  1. Plastic Tablecloth
  2. 3.5 oz Soft Plastic Tumblers  (NOTE: the hard ones will crack in your suitcase)
  3. A cup with handles
  4. Order Charoset (if not available in your local store) can order here

The following can be purchased at a local grocery store at your destination:

  1. Grape Juice and or Wine
  2. Prepared Celery Sticks
  3. Salt
  4. Triple Washed Romaine Lettuce or Romaine Hearts

Now it’s Friday night and time to do your Seder:

Here’s your essential but abbreviated Seder! (Also See here for abbreviated seder mat)

  1. Say the Kiddush over the 1st cup of wine. (pages 10-11 in the above recommended Haggadah)
  2. Dip the celery in saltwater and hide the afikomen (you can put it in the hotel pillowcase). (page 12)
  3. Ask the 4 questions. (page 13)
  4. Give the answer: Because we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and Hashem our God miraculously took us out of there.
  5. Say “Rabbi Gamliel said…” until the blessing for the 2nd (pages 32-36)
  6. Eat the Matzah, lettuce (as maror/bitter herbs) and the Hillel Sandwich. (pages 38-39)
  8. Afikomen!
  9. Birkat Hamazon and the 3rd cup of wine. (page 49)
  10. Sing the songs of Hallel at the end of the seder and drink the 4th

Perhaps the perk of spring break falling out on Passover is that the kids will see us actively seeking out the seder experience. They will see us going outside of our comfort zones. Yes, it will take a little more effort and grit. Our actions will speak louder than our words and we will merit to successfully pass over the torch.

I write this article with love in my heart and a prayer on my lips that all Jews in boring and exotic places have a wonderful Passover. May the rituals unite our family units and provide meaningful narratives to be reminiscing about for years to come. If this inspires anyone to honor Passover, that’s awesome. I believe in the eternal impact and power of each mitzvah. Nesiah Tovah, safe travels and next year in Jerusalem!