Only One Tuches

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Please help me with a problem at the intersection of my social and
spiritual lives. I’m single, and without local family closer than a plane
ride. The people with whom I am often social throw a great Seder.
That’s true if your priorities are a familiar group of friends, a Martha-
Stewart class table setting and food, and the best chopped liver on the
planet. The Haggadah is beautiful but the reading of it often feels like
a race through the service to get to dinner. My other option is to
Pesach with people I know from services, where I was once a guest.
The Haggadah is an eclectic cut-and- paste Xerox; the people a random
mix of folks I like but don’t know well, plus invited strays. I might fall
into the latter category from their point of view. It’s a long and
intricate service but feels more like the Passovers of my childhood. It
is my favorite holiday. I have an invitation to the first, but need to ask
for a seat at the second. What’s the right protocol and messaging?

Only One Tuches

Dear Only One:

This is so much easier than having to choose between, say, feuding
relatives, or possessive in-laws. In those cases you’re almost always
going to have to alternate venues, or host your own. Neither of those
is without peril, and each will almost always result in hours of lost time
explaining your decision to hurt or PO-ed relations plus their
emissaries and advocates.  But either is far harder than what you’re
facing: a choice between better goods, not lesser evils.

You’re very close to knowing what to do. Part of the answer is
sequencing. Be sure you’ve secured a seat at the spiritual Seder
before you turn down your friend’s. If it is already full, there may be
other people who’d make a place for you at a longer Seder, especially
if you said, I’m looking for an old-fashioned religious Seder. I’m a
great cook and can bring xyz.  Also, many shuls have a matching
system for “strays.” This is a holiday about community, and it sounds
like a great time to expand your circle. Once you know where you’re
going, talk to your friend. Be sure to compliment her hostessing
sensibilities. But explain that at Pesach you are drawn more to the
ritual of the evening than to food and friends. Be clear that you always
enjoy sharing time with her and the others, but that your heart is
outranking your gut.
Readers: If I could spend one day with my own deceased mother, I
would spend it in the kitchen, cooking and talking. Her chopped liver is
my own number one. She died with a head full of recipes that were
never written down and probably were never made the same way
twice, but always tasted special. A holiday wish to any reader lucky
enough to be able to do so: Harvest your favorites plus every family
story you can coax out of your mother on every holiday or other
special time you can share in her kitchen. You’ll be very thankful you