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The Order of the Order

April 6, 2012

Many Jews are a bit uncomfortable with the word Jew. Take the below exchange:

“Are you a Jew?”
“Well, I’m Jew-ish.”

All kidding aside, the story of how I went from being a non-practicing secular Jew to a temple-going religious one (albeit one who enjoys pork in all of its forms and cheeseburgers) is probably best for some blog that isn’t about food. The part that is relevant to today’s conversation is that now I get to go to two Passover seders over the course of two days. This is synonymous with the festive holiday meal. And while I’m not so crazy about the holiday itself, I love a good seder.

If you’ve never been to one, they can be a lot of fun. They can also be simply dreadful. But one would be hard pressed to beat the one Raf, ADS and I cobbled together in our first year out of college living in California, far from our families on the East Coast.

The whole idea is that seder means order. All around the world, Jews… er, the Jewish People… are all engaged in slight variations on the same event.

1) Kadeish  – First cup of wine
2) Urchatz  – Wash your hands
3) Karpas – Dip parsley in salt water
4) Yachatz – Break a piece of matzoh
5) Maggid – Tell the story & second cup of wine
6) Rachtzah  – Rewash your hands
7) Motzi – Blessing before the meal
8) Matzo – Eat the matzo
9) Maror – Eat the bitter herb
10) Koreich  – Eating matzo and maror together
11) Shulchan oreich – Finally, it’s meal time
12) Tzafun – Eat the worst dessert ever
13) Bareich – Say grace & third cup of wine
14) Hallel – Songs of praise & fourth cup of wine
15) Nirtzah – Conclusion

It makes me tired just thinking about it. The problem is that many people use old-fashioned haggadot (the plural of haggadah). These are the books that you follow along with as you go through the seder. And sometimes you come from a family where there is one older relative who insists upon reading every single word from every single page of the book.

Those are the seders that just drag on and on.

It was in California that I realized we didn’t need to have haggadot. Not that there aren’t great ones out there that can heighten your enjoyment or spiritual fulfillment of the holiday. I hear such things exist.

For our first Passover together the boys and I sat out on our patio, on a cool spring night, huddled around the charcoal grill. As the coals were heating up, we had some wine and went through the first two-thirds of the seder.

When the coals were ready to cook, so were we. Then we took some meat, threw it on the grill, and as the food was sizzling, we debated the finer points of the story. Since we all liked a good argument, ADS was kind enough to print out a reference guide that included the full text of the Bible verses surrounding the exodus from Egypt. The meal concluded, we hung out, drank more wine, and sang some songs as best we could.

It was fantastic.

This year, we will also be flying from the seat of our pants. The Casa del Fussy will only be hosting a small family seder on the second night of Passover. I’m thinking that given the Wikipedia page, it’s probably easy enough to build a series of links that form a workable iPad haggadah. But with all that wine you don’t want delicate electronics in the way.

No, I’ll likely print out a few key pages, and copies of the order for everyone to keep track of where we are in the process. We’ll need to have the four questions, which are asked by the youngest person who is capable of chanting the melody. My money is on Young Master Fussy this year.

My sister is hopefully bringing up some gefilte fish from Brooklyn (or maybe Manhattan). Mrs. Fussy promises to make her super light and fluffy matzo balls. I already have plenty of chicken stock on hand, but I plan to make another batch of tzimmes. There should be roast chicken. Maybe there will be brisket.

I will get a little fancy with snacks leading up to the seder. However, for the most part it will be a traditional Eastern European kind of affair.

But I’m incredibly thankful that I don’t have to put that together until Saturday night. Tonight, we’re guests at a friend’s house and all I have to do is bring the wine. I already have a nice cabernet sauvignon that I picked up at For Love of Wine (aka FLOW) yesterday for the occasion, and may run out today and pick up something white as well.

Wine is important, because we are supposed to drink four cups of it during the seder. That’s a lot of wine.

We don’t eat leavened bread on Passover because our ancestors had to flee Egypt quickly and didn’t have time for the bread to rise. Okay. We’re supposed to relive the symbolic experience. I get it, fine. But it’s hard to imagine schlepping barrels of wine into the wilderness, or making the stuff while wandering around for forty years in the desert.

Stuff like this drives me crazy.

Still, I’m really looking forward to both seders this year. The first bites of matzoh are never bad. It’s only around day five when it starts to wear thin. But luckily I already have plans for pizza with friends to celebrate the end of this grueling symbolic remembrance of our enslavement.

Should you not be running around like crazy trying to put the finishing touches on your Passover seder or Easter dinner, perhaps you can find some time to vote for the FUSSYlittleBALLOT 3.0, and if you’ve already voted, now would be a great time to send an email to all your friends and family asking for their support as well. Thanks.

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