Why is this year different from
all other years? Each year those in attendance at our two sedarim must
choose which seder is better: the first night (My Zayde’s Seder-done
exactly as my Zayde did it, as did his father before him, all the way back
to Moses, with me at his right hand—mumbled in Ashkenazic Hebrew [the Hebrew
that Moses spoke] at breakneck speed, with no pauses, other than to shoosh
or Mom’s Seder, begun with the traditional song:
There’s no seder like Mom’s sederThis seder is a participatory, democratic, innovative, creative learning experience. It is also known as the "My Zayde Rolls Over In His Grave" seder.
Like no seder we know.
Everything about it is appealing--
Everything halakha will allow.
Don’t you know we get a happy feeling
when Abie’s stealing the matzah now.
There’s no people like Jew people;
they smile when they are flogged.
Even when they’re fleeing from a big pogrum,
the Passover melodies they will hum.
Let’s remember triumphs over all that scum;
Let’s go on with the seder!
In attendance the first night were Marjorie and Jonathan, Bess, our niece, Daniella Spinat, our friend from New York, Mary Boys, who co-teaches with Carol at JTS and Union Theological Seminary, Brother John McHale, who runs Whitmarsh House for boys in Providence, where I consult and maintain my office, Hannah Goldberg, the retired Provost at Wheaton, and Bill Dilworth, a new Jew, born in Fort Worth, who belongs to our temple and is a grad student in Portuguese at Brown, Bill sat at my right, and was the same eager-to-please mumbler that I was as a child. In fact, there were lots of good mumblers: Marjorie, Carol, Mary, Bess. The others kept a respectful silence and did not have to be shooshed once. The highpoints of the seder included matzah shmurah (matzah watched over by ultra-orthodox Lubavitcher Hasidim in Crown Heights—extra dry, extra flat, extra tasteless—given to me by Rabbi Laufer, our local Lubavitcher Rebbe for my good service as the mitzvah boy in helping to make a minyan several times throughout the year,) vegetable soup, gefilte fish, the trophy of all trophies this year: real brisket (there was a nationwide brisket shortage due to a fire in the kosher slaughterhouse in Nebraska) with sundried tomatoes, asparagus with red and yellow pepper coulis, potato kugel with wild mushrooms. Carol is sitting with me as a write this and insists that I mention the desserts, for if I don’t, people will think that she didn’t serve desserts. She served brownies and marmalade squares. But, as delicious as the meal was, all Passover desserts, made as they must be without leavening, taste like shit. The brownies had the consistency of sand, and the marmalade squares caused three fecal impactions later that night. Also, while we are listing the negatives, the wine, every bottle, was horrible, since all kosher wine, except for a few rare bottles from Israel is "mevushal," which translates as "boiled." You haven’t tasted rotgut until you’ve tasted a boiled merlot. It makes you crave Manischewitz Loganberry. The Afikomen presents were a big hit this year, all of them toys with logos from pharmaceutical companies. The most coveted among the gifts was the Prozac Superball, a transparent golfball-sized sphere which bounced high and inside of which neon lights flashed upon impact. The songs were lustily sung, everyone gamely struggling through the Hebrew.
But the highlight of this seder was the announcement by Marjorie and Jonathan of a hidden member of the family, still too young to ask, as the Hagadah says. We will know more on or about October 7.
On the second night, our numbers rose to 16: Marjorie and Jonathan, Neal and Andy, Bess, Belleruth and Art and Abie, Michael, Sandy, and Josh, Mary, Janet and David Gottler. We started early, and Carol divided us into four groups, each of which received a paper bag with three props, which we were to incorporate into a skit illustrating a given theme in the Hagadah.
In the first skit, Bess stole the show, reciting the Mah Nishtanah (The Four Questions) in a child-like voice, with facial expressions to match. Abie stuck his hands through her armpits to add expression.
In the next skit, about the Four Sons, there was an intellectual cyberkinetic tour de force that was at once mystical and cathartic.
In the next skit, I played Dr. Ariel Sharon, a sadistic dentist extracting a tooth from Art, as Yasser Arafat, who used his teeth to eat Jews.
The tooth was replaced by Mary, the Tooth Fairy, who gave him something to Jew on.
Then, a skit on how God chose the plagues, with Andy as the Angel of Death, poisoning Josh, a Jewish baby, while Belleruth chanted from the Torah in a "precognitive experience." ..
Dinner began with the usual blown eggs (you tap off each end of the shell and blow the hard-boiled egg out into your cupped palm),
chicken soup with matzah balls, roast turkey that was soooo….moooiiiisssstttt, and just fell off the bone, cranberry conserve, spinach frittata, butternut squash ratatouille, cabbage and mushroom casserole, compote, "almost" chocolate cheesecake with raspberry. There were the usual cries of "Carol you outdid yourself. Oi’m stoffed, Oi’m bloated. You have to give me the recipe."
Another round of pharmaceutical paraphernalia for Afikomen, the same wonderful songs, accompanied by the guitar, and upstairs to the bedroom, for a slumber party during which we all watched the latest installment of the sopranos, taped during the evening.