Sunday, April 8, 2007

Passover and Vodka

There are a lot of rules in Judaism. According to Basic Judaism, there are 365 prohibitions, one for every day of the calendar year.

I think I broke a few Saturday morning.

This year, in my attempt to immerse myself in as much Jewish culture as possible, I am observing Passover. For those of you who were as clueless as I was a few years ago, that means no leavened bread, or chametz.

The story of Passover is the story of the Jews exodus from Egypt. (For those of you raised in Sunday School, that's the story that involves Moses and the parting of the Red Sea.) It is called Passover because one of G_d's numerous plagues involved the killing of the firstborn, but Jewish children were passed over.

So as the Jews fled slavery in Egypt, they didn't have time for leavened bread (bread that rises). So during the eight days of Passover, those who observe the holiday abstain from eating it to remember the hardships and sacrifices of the ancestors.

Passover began on Monday night at sundown and ends at nightfall Tuesday. It's a loooooong eight days. I've eaten fruit -- lots of it -- and lots of matzoh sandwiches.

For someone who almost entirely subsists on bagels, cereal, pasta and sandwiches, it has been especially long. Add in the smorgasboard of goodies from the Mexican bakery that appeared at work last week and the snickerdoodles (!!!!) that are about five feet away from me right now, and I'm sweating it.

This my second Passover, but the first I'm trying to take seriously. It has gone well for the most part, but I have not been without my slip ups -- namely my Bloody Mary at brunch this morning. As soon as I sipped it, I knew I had screwed up, but I kept on slurping anyway. It was just too good.

But the holiday is not lost on me. In fact, it has a special meaning for me.

As Ryan and I prepared for the week, it has brought us closer together. It has also brought me further into the Jewish fold. Try shopping for matzoh the week before Easter in the Bible belt. There's one place to get it, and they just have a few boxes. Try finding a shank for the seder plate. Try finding a copy of the Haggadah. Try explaining to co-workers on a daily basis why you won't eat the goodies that you usually gobble up without prompt.

I'm starting to understand that trying to learn to be Jewish in an un-Jewish place is a blessing. It makes it that much harder. I have to explain things just a little more. And it makes this process all the more purposeful.

Here are some photos from our Monday night seder:

This is our seder plate. Note the comical size of the "shank." When Alex went to the butcher, he didn't have anything resembling a shank so he gave him a lamb femur for free. Clockwise from top: The Shank, haroset, bitter herb, vegetable and the egg.

Our seder dinner table.

Our guests Alex and Liz peeling the hard-boiled eggs.

Ryan and I before the seder.

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