The month of April has always held special significance for me. I was born on April 24 and my father passed away on the same day years later. Of course, as a Jewish lad, Passover is another April staple. And this year, April proved to be a milestone once again: my divorce became final this month – on April Fool’s Day, no less. Oh, the irony.
As the now officially divorced father of a 10-year-old girl and a 13-year-old “man,” I appreciate the holiday, and in particular the seders, more than ever before. Now that I’m on my own, it’s as if each item on the seder plate speaks directly to me, as I move forward on my own exodus of sorts. But of all the symbolic items that adorn the seder plate, the one that resonates with me most are the three matzot stacked and separated from each other by cloth. During the seder, the middle matzah is broken in half, symbolizing the split between my ex-wife and I, while the number three represents my two children and I.
One paragraph in our divorce agreement deals specifically with Passover and the High Holidays. In the case of Pesach, we each get the kids for one night. One seder. (I’m not sure what divorced couples do in Israel, where they only have one seder.) The first year we were apart, my ex-wife had the first choice, and off went my kids to enjoy a seder at their bubbe and zayde’s house, while I joined my family – childless – at my brother’s house.
When I had the kids the second night at a friend’s house, I have no doubt that my ex-wife wept while looking at the two empty chairs meant for them.
I took lots of photos of the kids enjoying their seder and forwarded them to her. I even capped off the evening by delivering both kids to her seder – mine, in true family tradition, ended far too early.
Since my ex and I split up around two years ago, we have been following the terms of our separation, and now our divorce, agreement. Now, as we become more familiar and comfortable with our new lives, we realize that the agreement we signed is really more of a guide. Thanks to my ex’s generosity of spirit, combined with my pledge to be the best ex-husband ever, we manage to have a relationship that is usually calm, respectful and mutually beneficial – sometimes, dare I say it, even pleasurable.
We share the kids equally, rotating weekends, and as strange as it may sound, we talk pretty much every day – more than when we were married.
As our relationship progresses, we continue to put the children first. This year, my wonderful ex-in-laws have even invited me to join my kids, my ex and about 30 of her family members at this year’s first seder. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to spend such an important evening with my children, even if it means being bombarded with far more than four questions, not to mention the looks of dismay my presence will undoubtedly provoke. Still, any discomfort I may feel that night will pale in comparison to the joy of being with my children one more day than originally agreed upon way back in our mediator’s basement office.
Thank God for compromise.
Passover is the perfect metaphor for my life at the moment; a life that is looking for a new beginning, while respecting the past and all that I gained from a marriage gone awry, but one that gave me two priceless miracles.
I ask all of you going through a painful divorce to take a deep breath and realize what you gained from your marriage, rather than focusing on what you think you have lost. This year, when your ex-spouse takes your kids to a seder, rather than lashing out, realize what’s really important here: not your ego, not the feeling that you “lost,” but rather that your child or children are heading to a night with loving friends and relatives surrounding them. You’ll have the same opportunity the next night. And, who knows, maybe you’ll even get to the point where my ex and I am: taking the kids to a seder together.
Passover, which means “skipping over” is, at its core, about freedom, renewal and rebirth. We clean like mad prior to the holiday, literally and metaphorically sweeping away the year that was, while welcoming a new start. To those of you going through a divorce at this important time in the Jewish calendar, I urge you to realize that it’s not about who gets what, or who gets the upper hand. It’s about stopping the hurt. It’s about healing, especially where there are children involved, and doing everything to ensure that they live healthy, happy lives.
At the end of the day, if my ex-wife and I can achieve that goal together –