Ask Miriam | How Do You Say ‘No’ to Mom for Seder?

Pesah celebration concept jewish Passover holiday egg and seder plate
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Dear Miriam,

I was supposed to host my extended family, including my mom, for sedarim this year. The rest of the extended family lives in New York City, and we have already discussed that they are not coming. I am struggling with how to tell my mom not to come as well. It is the safest option, but I feel so much guilt about relegating her to being alone for all of Pesach. I am wondering if you have advice about: (1) How I should be framing this issue for myself, and (2) How I should talk to my mom about it? 


Seder Struggles


Dear Struggles,

I am committed to answering as many of these questions that come in between now and Passover as possible. It may feel repetitive, but repetition is crucial: Stay home unless you must go out. Only spend time with the people living in your household. Of course, we want Passover (or other holidays, milestones and celebrations) to be the exception, but unless you’re an essential employee going to work or you’re going to the grocery store or pharmacy to buy necessary provisions, there really are no exceptions. 

Know that this is hard. Accept your own sadness. Remind yourself you’re doing this for the safety and health of your mom and your family members, for the health care workers fighting this crisis and for the public good. As much as the circumstances may make you (and your mom) feel alone, in fact, you are part of the global Jewish community all facing the exact same circumstances and disappointments.

Call your mom if you feel like you are capable of having this conversation without your emotions spiraling out of control and without being swayed if she tries to convince you to host her. Think about the conversation as confirming rather than informing. “I’m so disappointed we won’t be able to host you for Pesach this year, but I know it’s the safest choice for everyone involved.” Ask her if she wants help thinking through her options for being alone, and then commit to sharing resources, helping with grocery delivery and video chatting with her during the holiday. 

If you think this won’t go well as a phone call, put it in an email. Share some links, share your sadness and promise that you’ll talk frequently. You can also share with her that many synagogues, denominational movements and local Boards of Rabbis (including Philadelphia’s) have put out statements about the necessity of limiting seder guests to those living in your home already. If your mom remains unconvinced, encourage her to talk to a trusted rabbi or other religious or public health official in her own community.

There have been some powerful commentaries circulating about the idea that, before the Exodus, during the plagues, many Hebrews were alone in their own homes. In some ways, this year’s seder might more closely approximate the fear, isolation and uncertainty that preceded the Exodus more than any other Passover most of us have ever experienced. I urge you — and your mom — to do your very best to look toward the redemptive, virus-free, non-quarantined future and plan to be together, hopefully, very soon.

Be well,



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