Saturday, April 11, 2009
Struggling Seders and other Jewish Folktales
Ah, spring, the time when young man's fancy turns to love. Or, to sudafed, as the tang of pollen fills the air and nasal cavities of some unfortunates. Of course, I'm very lucky, as my sinus are excellent, and I live in not-New Haven, where spring is like a mythical beast much discussed and rarely seen, it is our bigfoot, our nessie, our cylon. It is always among us, and yet never appears. And while we huddle together for warmth at not-Yale, well into April, we curse this "spring" business and comfort binge. Or maybe that's just me. But there is one thing that the climate of not-New Haven can't take away from me, despite it's best efforts to do so, and that's Passover. Friends, enemies, bored people coming across this blog on the internet, I love Passover. I love it. I love the ceremony and the food and the matzoh ball soup (though with that one who doesn't?). I love the wine, obviously, and I love the spirit of the event, bringing people together, welcoming strangers into your house, telling stories, repeating a centuries-old ritual, it's all good. But Leah, you're saying to yourselves, you hate people. That's like, your thing. The haterade. Well, that's true. But NOT at Passover. Passover, I love you all. Or I did....
Why was this Passover different then all other Passovers? Well, for one thing I couldn't go home as the Jewish calender in an effort to spite me and college-attending Jews everywhere, placed the first two nights of Passover in the middle of the week, so thank you Jewish calender, well done. For those who don't know, the first two nights of Passover are the nights of the Passover seder, the ceremonial dinner in which we recount the story of the liberation of the Jews from Egypt. What it ends up being, like all good Jewish holidays, is an excuse to get gloriously drunk among excellent food and company. But what was I to do? I couldn't go home, to the seder I know and trust, and the wine labels I had helped purchase. Well, luckily for me, the good people of the Chabad house at Yale were doing a seder I was luckily allowed to partake in. The nice thing about the Passover seder is that it takes forever to get to the food part, but you have to be drinking through the ceromony, so when the meal finally arrives after two hours of wine and hebrew whatever they put in front of you is going to taste amazing.
This is what I was counting on the next night, the second seder, because wonder of wonders I would be the one cooking. As I dashed from class to my friend's apartment to make the meal I found myself questioning my sanity. Why on earth had I thought that this would be a good idea? We had people coming in two hours, I had a meal for 8 to make, and my mind was still trying to deal with Dostoevsky's Notes From the Underground, which isn't exactly a book themed for merrymaking. Cooking furiously as my friend Derek urged me on with the skill of an expert life coach I whirled around the tiny kitchen, seriously freaking out Becca's cat and cursing to my past self who had agreed to this struggle. This isn't how this was supposed to go, my mother was supposed to be there, and it's supposed to be in not-Philadelphia, and I'm supposed to already be on my second glass of wine! The struggle loomed large at the moment, I must say.
But the truth is as the guests poured in, gentile and jew alike, bringing with them wine and excitement, my own mood lifted. So what that the kitchen around me looked like a war zone and that the cat wouldn't stop sniffing the cooling cake on the windowsill? I was with people, with food, with good wine and celebrating a miracle. Frankly, beyond the Jews and the Egypt business, I count myself fortunate just for making it through the week.
Song that makes you feel like summer's almost not so far away? Luisa's Bones by Crooked Fingers. Look for it, I swear it will make you feel warmer.