"Stay on the West Side... Be with new friends… A whole new life is opening up to you. Be a part of it…"

These were some of my thoughts as Passover approached several years ago, when I was in the beginning stages of embracing Orthodox Judaism. My embrace of this new lifestyle was reciprocated by the Lincoln Square Synagogue community who welcomed me with open arms as I arrived every Friday, suitcase in hand, wanting to be nurtured by a faith that had been mine from the beginning.

As Passover approached, the conflict I was experiencing was the stuff of dramaBut someone else had been there from the very beginning, my beloved mother (may she rest in peace), and as the months progressed, the treatments for her illness were becoming more difficult. She was also dealing with the loss of her husband of 50 years (my father, may he rest in peace) seven months prior. My mother continued to live in Philadelphia while I had moved to New York to immerse myself in the glittering world of entertainment as a writer and performer. But then I met Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald at the Lincoln Square Synagogue Beginners Service, and something he said there – "I'm not asking you to give up everything you're doing, I'm just asking you to put Judaism first" — made me want to come back. Again and again and again.

To be sure, I was still writing scripts, but I was writing a different script for my life, and as Passover approached, the conflict I was experiencing was the stuff of drama.

I had to make a choice – stay on the West Side and enjoy the spiritual and social benefits of dynamic seders, or go to Philadelphia and have the seders with my mother. If I went to Philadelphia, it would be the first time I'd lead a seder, and it would have to be done at an early hour as my mother's treatments made it difficult for her to stay up late.

My mother, although not religiously observant, had a religious heart, and she wanted me to be with my new friends. She encouraged me to stay in New York, adding that it would be hard for her to stay up for the seder anyway. She intimated that we could get together soon after the first two days of Passover.

My mother's encouragement was certainly making it easier for me to stay in New York, to go to seders where I wouldn't have to arrange kosher food as I would need to do at my mother's. To go to seders where I might even meet someone I could eventually marry, something that my mother wanted so dearly for me.

The decision seemed like a no-brainer, but I didn't go with my brain on this one. I went with my gut. If I was truly to "put Judaism first," I needed to be with my mother; I needed to honor her.

For the first time in my life, I made all the seder preparations and drove to Philadelphia, shank bone in tow. Greeting my mother, there was a mixture of sadness and joy. Sadness because of how weak she appeared; joy because no matter what was happening to her, her strength of spirit shone through. In seeing her smile, I knew that my endeavor was worth it.

She told me with motherly conviction that she would not go to sleep until I was backThe first night of Passover was approaching. I needed to attend a 6:30 prayer service, so I told my mother I'd try to get home as early as possible, but I might run a little late. "It's all right if you're sleeping when I get back," I said. But she told me with motherly conviction that she would not go to sleep until I was back in the apartment. I felt badly for every extra minute she'd stay awake.

But I felt glad for the seder we did have. You see, at 5:30pm, way before sunset, with the essentials of the seder – shank bone, horseradish, charoset, egg, salt water, grape juice and the rest – I had the privilege of leading us in a retelling of the story of our forefathers in Egypt. Technically, it was too early to hold a seder, but it was the only time that would work for my mother.

Someone, looking at the two of us from a detached viewpoint, might've called it an educational session about Passover. But I knew it was much more than that. It was a son, who had received much of great value from his mother, returning something of great value to her.

It was heartening to see that despite her physical weakness, she remained interested and involved throughout the retelling. When we reached the end, I kissed her on the forehead and we wished each other a happy Passover.

I walked the seven blocks to synagogue and prayed the afternoon service. About twenty minutes later, a man approached the dais, and I was relieved that the evening service was beginning so I could soon be home with my mother. It looked like I wouldn't be getting back so late after all. Then the man said, "We will now recite Shir HaShirim, Song of Songs." Without even realizing it, I spontaneously blurted out, "Oh no."

The man asked me, "What's wrong?"

I said, "My mother is ill at home and she won't go to sleep until I get back, and I didn't know this is part of tonight's service."

Without missing a beat, he smiled and said, "I'll finish very quickly."

I don't know how he did it, but he managed to finish Song of Songs in about two minutes. I felt such gratitude to him. Some 15 minutes later, the prayer service was over. I thanked him and bolted out the door. When I got to my mother's apartment, she was waiting up for me, and soon after went to sleep.

I wasn't sitting at that table alone as I read the HaggadahAnd then it was me, all alone at the dining room table. I couldn't be going to sleep just yet. I still had a seder to run. And run it I did. If it all sounded familiar, it was, because I had gone through the experience only two hours prior with my mother.

The memory of that earlier seder with my mother made this experience, oh, so sweet. I wasn't sitting at that table alone as I read the Haggadah, but felt a strong connection to G‑d. I felt I was doing what He wanted me to do.

I recited Kiddush, broke the middle matzah, spilled drops from my glass to remember the plagues, sang Dayenu, drank four cups of wine, ate matzah, bitter herbs, the sandwich and meal, searched for the afikomen (it wasn't hard to find), and once again said, "Next Year in Jerusalem" – all the while gratified that I could be connected to my mother and our tradition.

I wish everyone a happy Passover and the confidence to make decisions that may not be easy, but are the most meaningful.