Sunday, April 04, 2004

Where are you for the Seder?
I always thought this was the strangest question, but in the week or so running up to Passover, everyone asks everyone else, even people we hardly know, even when we couldn’t really care less. Today, a possible reason for this tradition suddenly dawned on me: This is an excellent way to suss out those who have not been invited anywhere, those who have no one to do the Seder with. A faltering answer, an evasive flicker of the eyelid, and the perceptive inquirer can immediately take the initiative, “Listen, Moyshe's Great Aunt Shoshanna decided to go to her nephew on the other side at the last minute. So inconsiderate of her, since we've already made all this food. You'd be doing us a big favor by coming to us.” How simple.

The Seder is the one tradition nearly everyone partakes in, even the most painfully secular (I don’t personally know anyone who doesn’t). There are nice humanistic, PC, versions of the Haggada, for those who dislike the traditional version. The kibbutzim have been using them for decades (Hebrew link). We tried it one year, but missed the more paranoid everyone's-out-to-get-us version. Hey, they really are (this year it’s official), so why can’t we enjoy it once a year, and sing familiar old songs about it?

According to a poll in the newspaper, even most of the newish Russian immigrants hold a Seder, although most of them didn’t know what it was when they arrived, having had most of their Jewishness beaten out of them by the Commies. Another poll in the newspaper claims that an astounding 75% of Israelis refrain from eating non-kosher-for-Passover foods, during the seven-day holiday. Well, you don’t get much more secular than me, and even I cleared out the Chametz from my office today. And I’ve stocked up on Matza. Passover just isn’t the same with Pita from Jaffa.

So where am I for the Seder? Right here, along with fifteen family members. Somehow I refuse to be flustered. Am I in denial? Well, maybe a little, but mainly, brilliant hostess that I am, I have managed to delegate out most of the cooking. I’m left with the hard boiled eggs, the potatoes, some clear vegetable soup for Bish and me, because we don’t drink chicken soup, and we don’t want to be done out of R.T.’s delicious kneidelach, oh, and setting the table (no simple feat on Passover).

This year is a red-letter Seder. Bish is going to be running things. His first time as the head guy at the top of the table; the one who holds up the Matza (unleavened bread) and the Marror (bitter herbs) and says the brochas (blessings). I’m kvelling. Really. I never thought I’d live to see the day.

Afterthought: I know what you're thinking. You're thinking: She forgot washing the dishes and tidying up afterwards. Yes, I did. I am definitely in denial.

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