This was the first year since 1995 that I did not cook the Passover seder.
The reason was that I’m still recovering (after four months!) from a medical problem I had just before Christmas 2018. I will get better, hopefully within another month, but I was not in position to do my usual annual shopping and schlepping and simmering.
Fortunately, a good friend of mine (and a veteran of my seders since 1995) took up the task of cooking. She made a grandmother-quality matzoh-ball soup; if you’ve ever had soup prepared by a Jewish grandmother, you know that’s high praise indeed. Instead of my usual roast she made a brisket; I may do that myself when I cook the Passover seder next year.
It was an unusually small seder for one held on a Friday night. Only three people could make it, including me and the cook. It resulted in something that hadn’t happened to me in decades: I was the youngest at the table. I therefore asked the Four Questions. At last, after fifty-something years, I know why this night is different from all other nights!
Though the attendants were few, the conversation was no less lively. “Game of Thrones” took up quite a bit of discussion time. We also discussed the Museum of Cairo’s Eqyptian exhibit, and speculated how Egyptian Jews react to the anti-Egyptian sentiment in the Haggadah.
One of us pointed out something she learned from the History Channel: the animal sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem were supposed to act as atonement for sins of the past year. Since the Temple was destroyed, how do Jews atone? As a lapsed Jew, I’m ashamed to admit that I did not immediately know the answer to that question. It’s especially sad because the answer is contained in one of my favorite jokes:
Moshe said, “My rabbi is so pious. The other day, when it was raining, on everyone else’s head there was rain. But in a little circle around my rabbi’s head, there was no rain.”
Shlomo replied, “My rabbi is also pious.”
Moshe exclaimed, “Are you kidding? Last Yom Kippur, the most sacred day in the Hebrew calendar, when all Jews are supposed to fast for their sins, your rabbi was seen in the corner deli eating a pastrami sandwich!”
Shlomo said, “You see? On everyone else’s head, it was Yom Kippur. But in a little circle around my rabbi’s head, it was the day after Yom Kippur.”
Next year the Passover seder will be on the night of Wednesday, April 8, 2020. My week-night seders are usually not well-attended. It’s nice to know that, even so, a seder is still a seder. Maybe I will see you there!