I’ve mentioned that I’m in the process of converting to Judaism, from a history of being agnostic, to atheist, to a shrug of “how the hell should I know?” I’m not setting any land-speed records here in the process. There is a lot to absorb and the quotidian slog interferes with peaceful, well-paced spiritual matters. I’ve also mentioned that I have been studying Myers-Briggs, and that I am an INTP. INTPs get the :::cough, well-deserved::: rap for being stubborn and not believing things just because some authority figure says “because I said so.” Religion is rather defacto some authority figure saying, “because I said so,” so there is an inherent friction there with me. Luckily, Jews will argue about everything with everyone, including God, which is one reason I’m so drawn to the Tribe.
One of the big holidays (and I think Jews have about 400 major holidays per year…) is going on now, and just started on the evening of the 27th (so the full day of the 28th), and that would be Passover.* Passover is a big deal for Jews. It is arguably (because, Jewish) one of the most beloved of holidays. There is intense preparation before the holiday, more so the more Orthodox one is, which I’m not. There is a big to-do seder, which is a combination of ritual and meal, complete with umpteem steps, weird (sorry) symbolic things on a plate, and just a lot of things that don’t come naturally to an outsider, even one who grew up tangentially Jewish because my grandfather was Jewish and my mother snuck in Jewish stuff without us really knowing it.
Passover is a time for people to gather in groups, in families, to invite strangers—both Jewish and not Jewish—into your homes and…
Oh. Wait. COVID.
There were several ZOOM Passovers available to attend but I did things differently.
If you have been following, you also know that I frequent a virtual world called Second Life. There I have an avatar and interact with other avatars, like with a phone call only with cartoon characters representing us as we speak. People can communicate using voice or text. One place that is well known to a friend of mine was having a virtual seder and we were invited to attend!
Oh, I was so nervous! I had performance anxiety. I had to laugh at myself because it honestly felt like I would be narc’d on to my rabbi by the Seder Police. “Rabbi! The shiksa drank the wine at the wrong times, and too much we might add! She butchers Hebrew! Heaven only knows what demon she summoned up with her horrible pronunciation!”
So my avatar got nicely and demurely dressed, and my friend and I poofed in to the service. It’s technology, and even more specifically it was Second Life technology which is notorious for being glitchy. So some people couldn’t hear the voices others were using, others couldn’t see the media being played (humorous topical YouTube videos). There was kvetching. There was small talk. There was quipping. There was confusion. In short, I think the atmosphere was pretty comparable to had this been in ‘real’ life.
I was nicely confused. I had my Kindle open to the seder section in my Idiot’s Guide to Judasim—and yes there is such a book and it is quite good. The ritual portion, the step-by-step guide, is called the Haggadah, of which my Jewish friend informed me I was destroying the pronunciation (so more demons being summoned by me). I was juggling following along in my Kindle, my friend chattering away privately in my ear about what was going on, listening to others speak in public and trying to find the text chat that was also going on. (In effect I had the equivalent to two Skype calls going on, one public and one private.) My Kindle’s version of what would happen didn’t exactly meet up with what happened, and so yes, I drank and ate and said blessings weirdly. Sorry, rabbi!
It was fun and really informative. I had never heard my friend speak Hebrew before (with a Canadian accent I might add), and it was heart-warming to listen to him rattle off blessings. I really felt the whole thing. Being a pretty deep introvert these days, I think it was actually the perfect introduction to the holiday. Thanks, COVID? Honestly, with the ZOOM Shabbat services and the virtual holidays, this introvert might be sad when those options all leave for more “normal” events again. Because: Eek, people!