Ponder this:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A sweet and happy Passover to you.

Pesach begins on Monday.
Al and Debbie were our Jewish Connection. 
I'm thinking today of Al and Debbie's Pesach seder. Husband and I were honored to be guests, and how I enjoyed it. 
I liked the tradition-saturated evening... 
Debbie putting her shawl over her head to light the candles with a prayer.
Marc, the youngest son (the only son, and in his thirties) answering the questions and singing the songs, one after another after another at his father's request, his voice cracking as it tired. But he sang on, such ancient melodies. The only words I recognized: Elohim; Adonai.
I liked the telling of the story, the explanation of the items on the Pesach plate. 
I liked the door left open for Elijah's arrival. It was a chilly and damp evening and every now and then Debbie would close the door for a few minutes to keep the room comfortable. "Well," Al sighed philosophically, "If Elijah comes, he'll have to wait on the deck." He chortled and the rest of us, except Debbie, smiled. I think Debbie worried that Elijah might be waiting, disappointed and frowning, when she reopened the door.
I knew much of the story . . . the blood of the lamb on the doors, the story of Miriam finding the baby floating in the basket. Marc was surprised and pleased. "Oh! You know about that?" But, clearly, there was a difference between my knowing the story and our hosts' feeling of  ownership. The story of Exodus is a Jewish story, after all. 

"In every generation, each person must feel as if he personally had come out of Mitzrayim (Egypt), as the Torah says: "You should tell your child on that day, 'When I left Mitzrayim, Hashem did miracles for me .....' "

.............[The Pesach Haggadah]

I liked the sense of continuity over thousands of years.
I even liked the derma. When Debbie brought it to the table, Marc made a face. I asked, "Why? What's in it?" It looked like bologna to me. 
"You don't want to know," Marc said, turning his face away. Everybody else tasted the slice they were given. I ate it with gusto.
It was a merry occasion, and grew merrier. Wow! That wine!
Al, at the end of the meal, standing, putting down his napkin and saying, "Next year in Israel." 
Marc explaining that even "Next year, in Israel" is traditional.

That was more than twenty years ago; I was still waiting tables. Shortly after the seder Marilyn came in. A regular customer, she always came during the afternoon lull when we had time to chat. I told her about what a great experience the evening had been. Marilyn asked, "Wait a minute! Al and Debbie who?" I told her and she threw herself against the back of the booth, jaw dropped. She had grown up across the street from the family, she and Marc had been best friends. During childhood seders they had run back and forth across the street to each other's homes, being The Guest at the seder.
I met Marilyn's parents at Al and Debbie's thirty-fifth anniversary party. I have a photo of Husband and me standing with them and we all look like blood relations. 
We went to Al and Debbie's grandson's bar mitzvah, Debbie pacing the hotel room before the ceremony, saying "Oy! Oy! I can't stop saying 'Oy'!" She was so nervous before, and so proud afterward!
And the party that evening! What a party! Everyone glittered and sparkled with joy and sequins. No holds barred for the ladies' dresses. A celebration is to celebrate! Beautiful!
The next morning, brunch in the hotel dining room. Lox! Everybody eating lox! For once I was not alone in that enjoyment.

The last time I saw Marilyn was at Debbie's funeral.
Still with the explanations: We eat eggs at this time as a symbol of life, to celebrate life.

I grew up in a family only two generations removed from old time Methodists, who disapproved of nearly every form of entertainment. So! Nu? How come whenever I take the Belief-O-Matic quiz, my result is "100% Reform Judaism"?

I miss Al and Debbie. Al's living in Florida now. 
Sometimes I miss living where we used to live. There were more Jews there.   
Small Pond is home to a few Jews, but they don't all have the Brooklyn-transplant accent. Maybe it's the accent I miss. 


Hilary said...

You've described much of my own childhood here.. only it took place in Montreal. This was written so beautifully, complete with nostalgic tug.

Grandmother Mary said...

I like savoring memories of those who have helped our lives be richer. This is a lovely remembrance.

Linda Myers said...

Ten years ago I was honored by an invitation to a Seder supper. I remember the ancient words.

Barb said...

I've been fascinated with Jewish tradition since I was a young girl (raised Methodist but since lapsed...). I read Chaim Potok and felt that I belonged in that world. Now, several good friends are Jewish, so I can still partake (as a guest) in the celebrations and observances. Your piece brings back memories for me.

rachel said...

What a lovely post, June. And describing a closed world to me, with my Catholic upbringing behind me.....

#1Nana said...

I, too, live in an area with very few Jews. I was, however, raised in southern California where every fourth neighbor on our block was Jewish. I never attended a Seder, but I remember attending the Bris of a neighbor's newborn son. The rabbi made the cut on a TV tray in their living room with the entire neighborhood (men appropriated wearing yarmulkes)watching.

Friko said...

You write like an angel.
These tales come alive in your hand, make me want to read more and immerse myself in the traditions you talk about.

Wanda..... said...

Wonderful read, June...traditions make life so much more meaningful.

Carolynn Anctil said...

Thank you for sharing this. I know nothing of these traditions. I do know the bible stories. What lovely experiences and memories you have.

Meredith said...

This was so very thoughtful of you. Passover has always been one of my favorite holidays because of the feeling of community and tradition. We have now twice gotten to say b'shana havaha b'yerushalayim (next year in jerusalem) and meant it, when we got to travel to Israel, which is pretty cool. And you have a very wonderful Easter! off to make matzoh ball soup.

fiftyodd said...

As we head off for our Easter break, your post brings back vividly for me several wonderful Passover meals I had when I lived in Israel for three years. What a marvellous country. I was there during the Yom Kippur war in 1973. Such courage and dedication shown by our young friends. I wasn't Jewish but was received with such kindness, by all except the government - who wouldn't give me a work permit.

Pearl said...

What a beautiful memory -- and so beautifully told.

Nicely done.


Tamara said...

This evening I celebrated Passover in a Methodist Church. I'm just sayin'

Loved your words...
Loved your memories...


SmitoniusAndSonata said...

A marvellous memory .

Freda said...

I've never been to an authentic Seder supper, though we have used some of the symbols at a Maundy Thursday sharing of food. The ancient words unite us all but are life and death itself for our Jewish friends. Thank you for sharing all of this. Every Blessing

Lord Wellbourne said...

It's not the accent, June, that you miss....it's the flavour that the Jews add to every part of life. There is so little meaning to much of what we do anymore. They give meaning to the mundane and turn it into a savory relish for life!