Friday, April 14, 2006

The Passover Story

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Due to a last-minute illness, we wound up hosting an assortment of my husband's relatives for the seder. The short notice (two days) was helpful in that it did not give us time to obsess over the details. Just cook the brisket and clean the house. I actually have a small collection of haggadot that I gathered before I had children- back when I had time for odd little hobbies.

I would have liked to done something along the lines of what Marjorie Ingall recounts in her piece EAST VILLAGE MAMELE: Passing Over, Crossing Under, but at least we completed a service that was a little more meaningful than Michael Rubiner's Two-Minute Haggadah (below). After all, we hosted a group with 9 children ages 5 months to 13 years. Even with that crowd we did not feel two-minutes would have been enough (Dayenu!).

We have a small collection of "plagues" ping-pong balls (hail), rubber mice (vermin), plastic frogs (frogs). Splinter asked, "What can we do for the Angel of Death?" Uh, we usually pass-over that one with so many small kids in the crowd.

The Two-Minute Haggadah: A Passover service for the impatient.By Michael Rubiner

Opening prayers:
Thanks, God, for creating wine. (Drink wine.)
Thanks for creating produce. (Eat parsley.)

Overview: Once we were slaves in Egypt. Now we're free. That's why we're doing this. Four questions:1. What's up with the matzoh?2. What's the deal with horseradish?3. What's with the dipping of the herbs?4. What's this whole slouching at the table business?

Answers:1. When we left Egypt, we were in a hurry. There was no time for making decent bread.2. Life was bitter, like horseradish.3. It's called symbolism.4. Free people get to slouch.

A funny story: Once, these five rabbis talked all night, then it was morning. (Heat soup now.)

The four kinds of children and how to deal with them:
Wise child: explain Passover.
Simple child: explain Passover slowly.
Silent child: explain Passover loudly.
Wicked child: browbeat in front of the relatives.

Speaking of children: We hid some matzoh. Whoever finds it gets five bucks.

The story of Passover: It's a long time ago. We're slaves in Egypt. Pharaoh is a nightmare. We cry out for help. God brings plagues upon the Egyptians. We escape, bake some matzoh. God parts the Red Sea. We make it through; the Egyptians aren't so lucky. We wander 40 years in the desert, eat manna, get the Torah, wind up in Israel, get a new temple, enjoy several years without being persecuted again. (Let brisket cool now.)

The 10 Plagues: Blood, Frogs, Lice you name it.

The singing of "Dayenu":If God had gotten us out of Egypt and not punished our enemies, it would've been enough. If he'd punished our enemies and not parted the Red Sea, it would've been enough.
If he'd parted the Red Sea (Remove gefilte fish from refrigerator now.)

Eat matzoh. Drink more wine. Slouch.

Thanks again, God, for everything.


Michael Rubiner writes for movies and television. His work has appeared in many publications, including The New Yorker, the New York Times, and Rolling Stone.

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