Monday, April 9, 2012

Suffering Happily

Christian holidays are festive and filled with fun activities and sweet food like jelly beans, chocolate bunnies and fruit cake. Jewish holidays are filled with suffering and food that sits in your gut for days. Hanukah may be the exception, but then again, made correctly, latkes can constipate you halfway to Purim. Even though Purim is festive, there is a fast involved. With every Jewish holiday (and we have many; look at a Jewish calendar), there is always fasting.

“I can’t make it to work today; it’s the Fast of Gedaliah.”

Do you know how many people have converted to Judaism just to get more days off? Jews for Jesus only work three weeks a year!

But, you gotta give it to the Goyim. They have two High Holy Days. Christmas and Easter. Both are marked by sales and pagan traditions. I will never get the Goyim. They celebrate the birth of the Messiah by waiting in line at Best Buy for twenty hours for an iPod XIV that they wrap and put under a tree they cut down and put inside the house. They celebrate the resurrection by chasing colored eggs all over a lawn, while being chased by a giant bunny, then wear fancy hats in a parade down Fifth Avenue.

By the way, I love Easter Parade with Fred Astaire, Judy Garland and Ann Miller. Big surprise, huh?

The only thing that drives me crazy is everyone wishing me a Happy Easter. This year, I responded with Happy Passover! I confused a few of my fellow Trailer Parkers.

When I lived in Mount Pleasant, which is neither a mount nor pleasant – discuss, we had a neighbor I called “Happy Holiday”; her real name was Chicken. I am not making that up. She would wish you a happy whatever until the next holiday. So, Merry Christmas through New Year’s, Happy New Year through Martin Luther King Day, Happy Martin Luther King Day through President’s Day, you get it. I would wish her the Jewish holidays in the same manner, but with so many holidays, I would get mixed up.

Is it Happy Tish B’Av or Merry Tu Bishvat? Oy, this is giving me a headache.

The irony is many Jews celebrate Christmas and Easter – at least the gift giving and chomping ears off bunnies part, but when was the last time you heard Bubba say to Dookey, “What’cha doing for Shavuot?”

For almost five decades, I have been explaining Jewish holidays to my gentile friends. So, for the last time:

“They tried to kill us; they didn’t; let’s eat.”

Of all the Jewish holidays, one makes you suffer for so long that you have to “count the omer” until your next bowel movement, and it is my favorite holiday of all! Yes, Passover or Pesach to those of the Hebrew persuasion.

For eight days, we get to eat more tasteless constipating foods than at any other time on the Hebrew calendar, and I love it. Here’s why. The holiday starts with a massive spring cleaning, and my inner Joan Crawford comes out in full force. “I am not made at you; I’m mad at the Chametz!”

My mother loved Passover; my father hated it. Then again, he didn’t like anything to do with Judaism, or Jews, or being Jewish. Yes, he was Jewish – very Jewish.

On Yom Kippur at around 10:00 am in the morning, he would start kvetching about going without food and being forced to suffer needlessly. Seriously? You are only skipping two meals. Oy Vay. On the second day of Passover, he would kvetch about how the matzah was tearing up his stomach. At my bar mitzvah, he complained that the rabbi’s sermon was too long and that I should have stopped at one Torah portion and chanted an abbreviated version of my Haftorah.

And once, he complained that my name was too Jewish.

Our Passover Seders ranged from the drama filled small family affairs with just Grandma in attendance to the free-for-alls we would have at Aunt Devera’s house. I love my Aunt Devera, but those services were so non-Sederlike. Uncle Seymour would scream at his sons, Aunt Anita would spill a glass of wine then have a meltdown, my father would make some off color joke that made no sense, Mother would compete for center of attention, and Aunt Flossie and I would roll our eyes at everyone else. The highlight was Rosalee’s homemade gefilte fish. It was fried, and the fish was unidentifiable. Even Aunt Anita’s cat turned up its nose at those smelly, crusted fish balls. To this day, I don’t know what she put in her gefilte fish, and I don’t want to know for fear of finding out I ate skate or viperfish.

My brother and I reached a point where we refused to go anymore because we found the whole evening to be sacrilegious. Can you imagine your children complaining because a Passover Seder is not traditional enough?

The last holiday I spent with my mother was Passover, and I led the service for the first time. I had to balance it between traditional and quick because Dad or Arnold the Gentile-Wannabe was there as well. It was the least drama-filled Passover of my life, and I think it was because we knew it would be my mother’s last one.

What came next was the strangest Passover I ever led. I was dating Blond Frankenstein, and it turned out one of his Jewish friends had never been to a Passover Seder, so I invited him and six other people. I was one of two Jews at the table. The service and food, if I say so myself, were nice, but they drank seven bottles of Manischewitz Blackberry wine! The next day, all of them complained they had diarrhea. I responded, “We don’t drink Mainschewitz by the bottle!” I don’t remember one full bottle being consumed at a Seder, let alone six.

Jackie Mason says gentile homes have no cockroaches because there is no food. How much gin can a cockroach drink?

Later, a new tradition started with rotating Passovers with my friend Ed with various friends and family, mostly his, rotating in and out. The part formerly played by Grandma was now being played by his sister Nancy, and I’ll let Ed talk about Nancy in his blog (DCXPAT). An entire treatise could be devoted to stories of Nancy’s idiosyncrasies. I like Nancy, but then again, I am not related to her.

Our services were quick but covered all the important parts, and we always enjoyed ourselves. Last year, Ed moved to Palms Springs. Take all the overly tanned, wrinkled up Jews in Boca, transform them into overly-tanned, wrinkled up Gays, remove the humidity, and you have Palm Springs. He is going to kill me for that one. I couldn’t help myself.

So, now I needed a new tradition. Do I host? Do I participate in the synagogue Seder-match (a system I created ten years ago that the Rabbi scoffed at but is still operational). But, I also longed for a more traditional Passover Seder rather than the abbreviated edition.

Then I received an invitation from my good friend, Allan. I accepted. He is one of my favorite people, and I knew it would be a good and traditional Passover Seder.

Not only was the service perfect, the company and the food were just as wonderful. But, the best part of all was that for perhaps the last time in my life, I was the youngest at the table, and I wasn’t at a nursing home. I couldn’t believe it. That meant I would get to read the four questions and open the door for Elijah.

I never felt so young and beautiful in my life! Thank you, Allan.

Happy Passover, Everyone!

Do you have four questions, ask me, get on my list, follow me!

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