How can I discourage some of my extended family members from wanting to join my seder? I know they are not interested, nor will they be engaged in the complete seder that we are planning.
Say No to the Seder
After the past two years of Passover celebrations that, for many of us, deviated from the norm of opening our homes to guests, this year is a real inflection point. Some will respond, I’m guessing, with the desire to have a full table, a “normal” holiday, an end to (or at least a break from) social distancing.
Others may take this moment to reassess what they’ve enjoyed about quieter seders these past two years and what they want to prioritize and hold onto from celebrations that have been intensely inwardly focused on the members of their own households.
You seem to be caught between these two opposing views, having family members that crave togetherness, while you value the smaller, more traditional seder you know and love. I don’t think you need to have an all-or-nothing approach, though, and you can find some balance without compromising on the Passover celebration you’re hoping to have.
For starters, it’s a pretty big assumption on your part that your extended family isn’t interested. Now, it may be an assumption based on years of seder experiences where they drift away or talk about non-seder topics behind their Haggadahs (seder booklets).
Even so, without an explicit conversation that says, “This is what our seder will look like. This is how long it will last. This is how late we’ll be eating dinner, and this is how late we’ll finish,” you don’t know for sure that they wouldn’t be eager, or at least willing, participants. It’s absolutely fair to tell them, “We’d be happy to have you, but your attendance would be a commitment to participate in the way I’ve described.”
You are also entitled, for any reason or no reason, to say, “I’m sorry but we don’t have room at our seder this year,” or, “We’re keeping things small,” or “We’ve really gotten accustomed to just being the five of us for seder,” or whatever it is that feels comfortable to express that they’re simply not invited. Though we say at the seder, “All who are hungry, let them come and eat,” you are not actually required to have people in your home who you don’t want to have there.
You can also try for complete and total honesty: “I love you and I love spending time with you, but I think our goals and expectations for seder are not compatible. Let’s get together another time.” If what your family members really want is to see you, invite them for lunch during Passover, or Shabbat dinner. That way, you can still eat the holiday favorites and share stories of memories of seders past, but you’re not obligated in the rituals that may be a dividing line for your seder nights.