Thursday, 4 March 2010

The Night Sweats Have Begun in Earnest

No, this isn't a post about menopause. While those kinds of night sweats might seem preferable to the type that began last evening with gusto, this is instead about the advent of that most beloved and yet, most reviled of all Jewish holidays. I am, of course, talking about the impending arrival of Pesach. (Passover for all of you non-hebraic types!) Without even realizing the exact date on the calendar, Pesach-induced hysteria began for me yesterday when I walked into the local grocery store down here in the frigid Southern Home, and watched all of the denizens of Baycrest south madly pulling matzah meal and matzah farfel off of the shelves, as if this might be the last kugel ever ingested. Without getting into a debate about the Hebrew lunar calendar, for all of us Westerners that actually live by the Gregorian version, Pesach is indeed arriving early this year, and that fact hit me square in the eyes last night. (It didn't help that the Sister/Cousin arrived a day ago with an expressed agenda to discuss the annual family plan!)

A Pesach seder is one of the three things for which most Jews, regardless of their level of faith or observance, will find time. (A bris and bar mitzvah being the other two.) It seems to be one of those ancient customs that defines us as a people. Everybody has an opinion about seder. For some families it is all about the food, for others the family gathering, and for some it is the Judaic component that ties it all together. And while I find comfort and significance in all of these, as anybody who has EVER planned, cooked, cleaned or prepared for Pesach in any way, shape or form will tell you, it is also a SHITLOAD of work. We all have lives that are busy and complicated, and Passover is kind of like the flu; it creeps up on you slowly and then hits you square in the face before you have had time to react.

My family is no exception. We have always tried to gather as many of the extended branches together for a big, honking old-style family seder. We cook, we plan, we clean, we sing, and we have over the years, created many a family Haggadah. Some have been accepted and some have been merely tolerated, but we continue to experiment and try new things. We have had arguments over food and we have had battles over the dividing up of responsibilities, but we still manage to come together as best we can as a collective. (Other family commitments always understood!) This year will be no different with the expressed exception that the Sister/Cousin (yes-I am calling you out!!!) has asked me to re-examine the Haggadah. Without going into family politics, I have hedged. I am perfectly willing to lead the family in song and I am perfectly willing to help with whatever cooking and cleaning might be needed, but the Haggadah is a project that I am not so willing to tackle again. It is complicated and never easy, and frankly it CANNOT possibly please us all. That said, I would like to propose a possible idea, with the expressed caveat that if it doesn't work, I can abandon ship and we revert to the book used last year.

I am asking all of you-related to me or not-friend, stranger, or colleague-to send me your Passover ideas. I want the best of what you have. I want your favourite readings and I want your favourite songs. I want your recipes and I want your kid's projects from synagogue or school. I want interactive, online, printed book, and games. I want new liturgy and I want old. I want Bubby's ideas and I want the youngest at the table's. Send it all to me. Every scrap, every page, every note. I will then take what I get and what I already have and try to make something resembling a seder out of it.

If you send me readings from books, please include the title and page number. If you send me stuff from a Haggadah, I need to know which one. If you have a particular song-I need the artist and album; a website-the address. In other words, reference your stuff people. I won't use it unless I can credit. It is only appropriate.

There is a deadline for this little exercise. The first seder is on March 29th and I need time to prepare, so you all have until Friday evening March 19th. Shabbat and all. You can respond in the comments section of this blog. Facebook is also available for those in the know, as is my private email.

Take care friends. This is an exercise that matters a great deal to me. (The Husband is probably groaning out loud as he reads this! Relax Honey. I have given myself an out!) Don't hedge or hesitate. There is nothing that I will deem too off-the-wall. Time is of the essence. The night sweats will only get worse as 15 Nissan approaches.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Dawn- Just a couple ideas from me that we've done over the years- We found charosets from around the world, made them, had taste tests and put little toothpick flags in them to show which country they represent. Miriam has our family cookbook which contains a variety of world wide recipes. Another thing we've done- Plague Bags for the little kids- this may be something you've done- a person is responsible for assembling all the materials and the kids assemble the plague bags - take em out at the right time. I have ideas for each of the plagues...
    and then I was told that the Reconstructionist haggadah has a Pesach play in it which is a lot of fun. Haven't seen it but it sounds good. And then, of course, there was the year that David hid a walkie talkie in a planter just outside the front door. When Rachele went to open the door for Elijah and David said something like "Let me in!", screams ensued and much hilarity was had by all. But that's just David.