I'm a little slow today. I just switched to Sanka. So...have a heart?

Saturday, April 23, 2005


I want to wish each and every one of you a hap-hap-happy Pesach!!! In my eternal quest now to do anything except study for finals, I have a rubbed and barbecued and onion-smothered a nice piece of fleisch (brisket) which is now slowly baking in a moist heat at 200 in the oven, where it will gently cook for the next six hours. I have also taken the liberty of arranging a tableau of passover products in front of that curs'ed mixer to remind us what the smells and sounds of Passover really are - onions, parsley, hard boiled eggs, matzah and soup, and the sound of a mixer earnestly whisking enough air into a honeycake, for it to rise in the oven. G-d, my house smells so good right now.

This used to be the holiday that I HATED most in the world when I was little. My family is a pretty traditional Jewish family for reform Jews. We keep kosher, which means, in truth, that we need FOUR sets of everything. There are the milch and fleischedich and pots and pans and silverware for everyday use, and then there's the Pesadicheh. An ENTIRELY other set of both milk and meat pots and pans and bowls and silverware for PASSOVER. We never used to go through the house and clean all the chometz out with feathers, we'd leave it where it was, but the dishes would go away, and the Pesadicheh would come out. We stopped really keeping kosher for Passover when I went to college, and commandeered all of the pesadich for my own personal use... it can probably never be used for Passover again, because of the amount of trayf I've been cooking in it... But anyway... Now I understand why Jews are considered rich and money-grubbing - we need to save up to afford a house where we have space enough to store all of our plates and pots! Kidding.

I don't remember when, but then Passover became one of my favorite holidays. I know I started hating it less in high school, because I knew it meant we'd have a houseful and a big pot of soup on the stove, with matzah balls boiling in it. I officially stopped hating it at around the time when my grandmother got sick, and I turned more religious, as I went to Schul twice a month to beg G-d for her recovery. It sort of worked...then didn't. But as I went through that phase, I became aware of exactly what Passover meant to me... Suddenly, the smells of sweet and sour meatballs and matzoh-crusted Manischewitz potatoes with paprika were sort of a bridge from the past to the present, and a way to preserve and strengthen memories through smell. And that's all about what this holiday is about, right? Mainly tradition, but also sacrifice to recall the sacrifice that our ancestors went through, gratitude for our release from slavery, and the renewal that Spring brings with it.

Through college, I would gather up all my chometz and store it at someone else's house. In law school, I bundle it up and put it in my laundry room, and in past years, I have temporarily transferred ownership during Passover to friends of mine, so that the chometz isn't in MY house.

I'm not really keeping Passover this year, because I have finals and I'm too poor to go out and do the huge shopping trip that Pesach entails. I wish I could go home for Seder, but I have a final in five days (uh-oh) and I just can't swing that. I know, though, exactly what's happening in my house right now. My father has probably just returned from Produce Galore, laden with fancy sauces and vegetables. My mother is buttering the outside of a large turkey inside and out, and the grill on the deck is probably heating up, with a pail of wood chips next to it, soaking, to smoke the turkey. There's a pot of soup that's started bubbling on the stove, and between buttering the turkey and hauling out my great-grandmother's china and the silverbox, she's skimming foam from off the top of the soup. The seder plate with its paintings of plagues on which symbolic bowls with maroor and karpatz will rest is off on part of the counter somewhere...

The house already smells like onions because behind the pot of soup is a big pot of meatballs, that somehow never burns in my parents' house, but always burns in mine. The dining room table's leaves have been pulled out and the waterproof table condom has been stretched over the top to make sure that when someone spills a glass of Manischewitz, it doesn't warp the finish.

After the turkey is on the grill, my father will occupy one end of the counter, my mother the other. My father will be chopping carrots for tzimmes and my mother will be separating eggs and the Sunbeam will be screaming as it whips the whites with matzah meal, sugar and lemon peel for sponge cake. After the sponge cake comes out of the oven, my mother will invert the tube-pan on a bottle of ketchup, to make sure the cake doesn't fall. My brother will probably be watching TV in his pyjamas.

The Kleins, Eckhauses and Hartmans will probably bring some type of kuchen and a vegetable, and everyone will stand around the kitchen drinking wine. Upon entering everyone will say "Ooh, Shelley! It smells so good in here!" On the screen porch will be a cooler filled with kosher-for-passover Coke and Diet Coke... Everyone will notice the turkey resting on the counter upon their arrival and ooh and ahhh over what it looks like... later on at Seder, everyone will reiterate how they love George's smoked turkey and isn't it moist?! Very moist! George always makes such a delicious smoked turkey!

When the Seder starts, candles will be lit, my mother will cover her eyes and say the prayers, and my father will launch into the Hamotzei. When I was little, we used to read from the 1965 Maxwell House haggadot with all the Hebrew spilling out of my father's mouth, and my brother and I bored to tears. Nowadays we have more accessible siddurim with pictures and English. They'll clip through the service, abbreviating it because everyone is hungry and no one wants to go through a two-hour service while the matzah balls are getting tough. The kids will argue about who has to recite the four questions, until I do it, (not this year, I guess) mixing up when "mit'su'been u'vayn mishubin" comes, with "chametz u'matzah." Everyone will dip the parsley in the salt water, and eat their beitzah, they'll make the sandwiches out of charoset and red Gold's Horseradish (my favorite part) and they'll dip their fingers in wine and put dots on the plate for each plague (Dam, tze'far'dey'ah, kinim, arov, dever, sh'chin, barad, arbeh, chosech, and makkat b'chorot.) I always think "would we really want to be eating if we were sitting there saying, Blood, Frogs, Lice, Wild Beasts, Pestilence, Boils, Hail, Locusts, Darkness, the Killing of the First Born?" No matter, though. The door will open, wind will sweep across the table, the candles will flicker, as we droan, "Eliyahu ha'na'vi. Eliyahu ha'tish'bi, Eliyau, Eliyahu, Eliyahu, ha'gi'la di!" By that point, everyone will have had enough, and we'll launch into the matzah ball soup.

While it's sort of sad to sit here and study tax while I know this is going to happen, that's okay. There's always next year, in Jerusalem. Ilu hot'zi, hot'zi'onu, hot'zi'onu mi'mitz'raim, hot'zi'onu mi'mitz'raim, da-ye-nu!


Blogger Mike said...

You forgot the best part of Passover - when you launch into the first round of Deyanu, and everyone sings along. Then you move into the second verse and all of a sudden, no one knows the words anymore so they all just kind of hum-along, until they get back to the chorus and everyone bursts out with another triumphant "Deyanu." I look forward to this moment every year.

3:19 PM


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