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It’s like this. I’ve got a stack of matzo, wine glasses, six colored eggs and a bunny on my dining room table. Add a Hagaddah and a hymnal and the picture of our ecclesiastical schizophrenia is complete. It’s a condition my daughter aptly named EastOver–that confluence of Easter and Passover where it’s OK to eat Peeps but not bread. That’s our family. As Marisa Tomei memorably squawked in “My Cousin Vinny,” “like you blend!” We do.
Most years each holiday gets its own due. Typically Passover starts before Easter and we do the traditional seder. My Episcopalian wife makes her sublime matzoball soup..a fact that royally ticked off my late, Jewish, mother who demanded her secret. “Just follow the directions on the box,” my wife deadpanned. I always feared that once Protestants figured this out, beyond my kitchen, they would co-opt the dish, the holiday and take credit for conjuring up the potent agent of constipation.
I always enjoyed the seder, even when I was very young and Passover tradition was held at my maternal grandparent’s apartment in Flatbush. My grandmother Perlberg was calm and gracious and made these killer french fries in the oven that were joyously greasy and crunchy. My grandfather insisted on reading the Passover story in Hebrew even though he spoke not a word. Indeed, every passage came out as “zummmmmzummmzummmcha!”” Sometimes he would nod off in the middle of the story which didn’t please us because it only delayed getting to the big meal, which was generally roast turkey and those rock-hard fries. We often were told the Last Supper, noted by Christians was probably what we were served because we were convinced Jesus actually died choking on a hard, greasy fry. The cross thing was just to cover up for the cook.
Which brings us to Easter. My wife has a deft touch when decorating the house for every holiday. For the Resurrection she exhumes a host of colorful, sparkling eggs and they rise to hover over us from various light fixtures. This not only adds the bright hues of Spring and hope to the house, it provides a reminder that between Easter and Passover ….eggs suffer from a high mortality rate.
We always enjoyed creating fun Easter baskets for the kids, stuffing them with toys and candy, which invariably led to the question, “hey mommy and daddy, what’s this stuff have to do with a guy going down then coming back up and what does the word ‘Easter’ mean?” Our explanation centered on the joy of the season and happiness that a very important person got a second chance… and our awesome dental insurance. No, I do not know what the word “Easter” means although I suspect it’s a Welsh interpretation of the word “Cadbury.”
The way we handle the confluence of Easter and Passover pretty much mirrors our even-handed approach to the intersection of Christmas and Chanukah, as I explained in the 2016 post “Holiday Turf War.”
It’s nice to see how our now, adult kids respect the different celebrations and beliefs, while hedging their spiritual bets. After all, you don’t want to put all your eggs.. matzoh or Easter, in one basket.
Today is New Year’s Day 5777 Don’t look for a ball to drop in Times Square, but perhaps a matzo ball or two will plunk into a shisl of chicken soup. It’s OK if you’re not wearing a silly hat, but it’s OK to wear a yarmulke. Noisemakers? Um..no, unless you want the rabbi to toss you out on your talis. Why are we 3,761 years ahead of everyone else? Ever wait for a Jew to get ready to get in the car? We needed that much of a head start.
Unlike the secular turning of the calendar celebrated with drunken gatherings and other forced frivolity, today, on Rosh Hashanah, we Jews spend the day seriously assessing our lives of the past year and hope to book another trip around the sun by being inscribed in the Book of Life after seeking forgiveness and atonement for our sins 10 days hence on Yom Kippur. That’s the day you don’t eat. You pray and think and hope the other old men in the temple broke the rule long enough to brush their teeth.
When I was younger I never missed a Sabbath or holiday to attend temple. Before we had kids my non-Jewish wife and I attended each other’s services. Then, as life intervened, we stopped, but we never stopped celebrating and respecting our holidays and faiths and teaching our children about them. Indeed, my late mother marveled at my wife’s wonderful matzo balls and tried to pry from her that “secret recipe.” My wife simply deadpanned, “I followed the directions on the box.” She must be great at following directions because they still kick the tushies of those I’ve had in the best Jewish delis.
By the same token, I’ve helped erect and decorate the Christmas tree and my wife makes sure the right number of Chanuka candles are in the menorah. I noticed that this year the two holidays are on the same day. Since Jesus started as a Jew we can celebrate his birthday and..conversion..simultaneously!
There’s not much I can contribute to Easter besides using some Peeps to plug up some holes in our pipes, but my wife puts on an absolutely incredible Passover seder. Yes, we read the entire story from the Hagadah before dinner and have never once missed a year.
The real point is, on this day of reflection, we’re all one. We may have different beliefs about how the world began, who’s running the show or what symbols to respect, but we all want the same things…health, happiness, good things for our families, success and peace and maybe a Dove bar once in awhile. And you must always add humor. We used to joke that a mezzuzah is just a cross without handlebars. Remember that. Be well.