Sunday, April 01, 2007


She Who Must Be Obeyed has begun preparing for our Seder tomorrow evening. The House of Elisson is redolent with the homey aroma of chicken soup on the simmer. The loaves of gefilte fish have been prepared; they’re in the fridge and will be sliced and unveiled as an appetizer, accompanied by chrain - grated horseradish - pungent enough to make strong men weep.

There will be tzimmes with beef flanken. There will be a stuffed breast of tender baby veal beef brisket. There will be SWMBO’s most excellent charoset, a relish composed of grated apples, nuts, wine, and spices. Charoset is intended to be reminiscent of the mortar with which the Children of Israel built the Egyptian cities of Pithom and Raamses, the latter of which would eventually become famous for its association with Prophylactic Devices. SWMBO adds a few golden raisins to the mixture, giving it an extra-special kick.

There will be chopped liver, a cholesterol-rich appetizer that only I seem to have an appetite for. I’ll wash it down (sorry, Eric!) with some slivovitz, one of the few distilled beverages that is kosher for Passover.

I will have relatively little to do in the kitchen. The major Jewish holidays are the province of the Missus; my participation is limited to the occasional side dish. I will prepare a dried fruit compote, an excellent dessert and one of the rare pesahdik foods that can bust up the annual matzoh-induced Intestinal Logjam. I may also make a (flourless!) chocolate cake.

Cooking aside, there’s a lot to do before we sit down to eat tomorrow. We’ll ritually divest the house of all leaven tonight, selling it off and/or burning it tomorrow morning. And tomorrow morning, the Minyan Boyz and I will start our morning service early to allow time for Talmud study. Completing a tractate of Talmud gives us an excuse to have a celebratory meal, in the absence of which first-born males are obligated to fast on the day before the holiday. It’s a formal expression of mourning for the first-born of the Egyptians, who were slain in the tenth Biblical plague - it’s also an expression of thanks that the firstborn of the Israelites were redeemed rather than killed.

Passover is a holiday near and dear to the hearts of even the most secular Jews. After all, it’s z’man cheiruteinu, the season of our freedom, of our deliverance from bondage. It, along with the Revelation at Mount Sinai, is one of the Defining Experiences of the Jewish people. References to the Exodus are not just as a part of this holiday’s liturgy; they abound in our daily worship.

It’s also a family time, and for that reason I treasure it. In past years, I’ve written about my memories of Seders long past with Uncle Phil and the rest of the Florida-based branch of the family. Phil’s Seders were never heavy on religious content, but they got the job done. Tell the story, drink the wine, eat the Ritually Prescribed foods, then enjoy dinner. That’s a combination that is hard to beat.

I’ll happily consume the appropriate Seasonal Foods for the eight-day duration of the holiday, after which I (and my colon) will be extremely relieved to resume a normal, leaven-filled diet. Matzoh is pleasant enough, for what it’s worth. To me it tastes like springtime, owing to its seasonal associations, despite its being extremely messy and constipation-inducing. There is, in fact, no messier Bread-Related product than matzoh, which generates crumbs in response to a mere wayward glance.

To any of my Esteemed Readers who are Jewish, please accept my wishes for moadim l’simcha (with a right good chag sameach thrown in).

And whether you’re Jewish or not, freedom is something to celebrate. So enjoy the week!

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