It was Pesach, 5750.
It was Seville, 1990.
It was also Semana Santa, Holy Week.
"Semana Santa in Seville!"
The cry is heard throughout the streets of Spain, as every Spaniard well knows the Holy Week festival of Seville surpasses everything else!
narrow cobblestone streets overflowing with people.
Balconies packed so tightly—
not another person can squeeze onto them.
People push one another to get to the front of the crowd.
In the back, they stand on tippy-toe,
so as to catch even just a glimpse.
There are people everywhere—day and night—all this—
to join together and become a part of the annual rite—the great processional that reenacts the story of Easter.
Ornate floats depict the Christian scenes.
They slowly wind their way through the streets,
among the frenzy of the crowd.
These are the same floats that parade through the city every year.
These floats symbolize the very essence of Holy Week.
But, it was Pesach,
and for the first time in my life
I didn't have a seder to attend.
The tears welled up in my eyes,
I felt so completely alone.
I had called a local Jewish family, but they were not able to find space for me at their table.
After a few tears— and then a few more — I decided to join in the Holy Week festivities and pretend that I wasn't really missing my favorite holiday.
Together with a classmate,
I went out into the city,
Trailing behind the floats and crowds.
When we reached the old Jewish quarter,
I suddenly found myself telling my friend the story of the Jewish Exodus from Egypt.
As we wandered through the city from float to float;
my story became more and more involved, interrupted only by her questions and cobblestone stumbles.
Like the floats that parade though Seville this same week every year to retell the story of Easter,
I retold the story of Passover,
as Jews all over the world were doing the same.
Rabbi Marla Hornsten is a rabbi at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield. Her “Seder in Seville” marked the moment she decided to become a rabbi and sparked her continuing interest in the themes of identity and community.
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