It all started so innocently. Yesterday, I casually mentioned to My Beloved, who is not Jewish, that tonight was the start to Passover, which meant that we’d have a good use for the chicken stock she’d made the other night… we could eat it with matzah balls! You see, last year, for the first time in the 2-1/2 years we’ve lived together, we hosted a seder for some friends, and among other Jewish delicacies, MB made the most delicious matzah balls — a total hit, especially considering she’d never done it before! (“Chicken soup and dumplings,” she said tonight. “No biggie.”)
We’ve been invited to a large seder tomorrow night, so I wasn’t planning on doing anything special at home tonight, besides eating matzah ball soup. I’d said I’d bring charoset to tomorrow night’s gathering, but haven’t seen kosher wine anywhere (no booze in supermarkets here, and the nearby liquor stores wouldn’t carry much), so figured I’d deal with making it tomorrow. At least this weekend I’d had enough forethought to pick up a box of matzah when I was at the only nearby supermarket that I know carries Jewish food, but that was as far as I’d gotten.
Just before we left for our 5:00 yoga class this afternoon, MB was cutting up veggies and throwing them in a pot with the leftover chicken, promising me a wonderful matzah ball soup when we got home. All we had to do was make the matzah balls. We hadn’t counted on the fact that this would take another 45 minutes, even though the soup was ready when we got home at 6:45 and we were hungry. What to do in the meantime? Well, she asked while munching on an olive, what else would you like with your “holiday meal”? “Shoot, I should have picked up some gefilte fish when I was at the market this weekend,” I sighed.
Turns out I’d said the magic word. I thought “matzah balls” would make her happy, but when she heard “gefilte fish” – which she knows I love because I’ve told her so, and which I know she loves because, well, she loves me – she said, “THIS is when we get to eat gefilte fish?” With a half hour to go while the matzah balls were cooking, I figured I’d have enough time to run to the store. “Get parsley too,” she yelled down the stairs, “and eggs!”
By the time I got home (less than a half hour later – we live close to the store), without my having asked, MB had already made some charoset (from this handy dandy recipe), pulled out the horseradish from the back of the fridge, and poured some salt into a bowl of water. I lifted my Nana’s seder plate from the dining room wall, where it hangs all year round, and we piled on the parsley, an egg (shh, uncooked), a chicken bone (from the soup), the charoset, and horseradish. I opened the box of matzah and piled three on a plate. We split a cider into two wine glasses and put candles on the table. At 7:30, we were seated at the table, still in our yoga clothes, and saying the blessing over the candles. We blessed the wine (okay, cider) and the matzah, and began our feast.
We skipped bringing out the Haggadah. Instead, while we ate, we talked about the story of the Jews leaving slavery in Egypt behind them and crossing the Sinai desert toward freedom. We talked about the importance of storytelling, how we repeat the same stories year after year, passing on these traditions to younger generations, so that they – we – never forget that once we were slaves, but now we are free. MB asked if this was a holiday where we think about those who are less fortunate, and when I said we do, she suggested that we take a moment to think about the families who lost their loved ones in Kansas yesterday. We did.
The recent anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, coupled with the stories that similar tragedies are happening today in other parts of Africa, are clear signposts that there is a tremendous amount of work to do to set the world right. The Jewish precept of Tikkun Olam, the repair of the world, is a compass pointing us forward in a world that sometimes seems out of whack. It reminds us, on this holiday in particular, that none of us are free until all of us are free.
The dishes are now put away, and I cannot thank my beautiful partner enough for caring to share this night with me. She knows it is meaningful to me to carry on some semblance of tradition in our non-traditional lives. And because it means so much to me, that makes these experiences meaningful to her too. Which makes it even more meaningful to me.
And so on, and so on. Next year in Jerusalem.