Passover thoughts

All this week I have been preparing for Passover. Cleaning is a fairly solitary activity and although I did have the TV and radio as companions for some of the work, it gave me some time to think.

I thought about all of the sdarim we have had over the years. Passover has always been a very special holiday for us. It was during my visit to my husband’s Army post on Passover in 1966 that we decided to get married.

He was the Jewish chaplain at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and that year was the first of our 40 years of sdarim. The next year, as newlyweds, we had a community seder on the first night of Passover. On the second night, we were to have had seder together and with two or three soldiers who had not been able to leave for the holiday. My husband had gone to the chapel for services. As I was waiting for him, three young soldiers knocked on the door and asked where services were. I told them, and as they began to leave, one said, “And this is where we have our seder?” I answered “Yes.” That year we had thirteen unexpected guests. Fortunately, we had plenty of food as I had cooked for the whole holiday.

As the years passed, we had our first child and then our second and then a third smiling face at the seder. One year I was very pregnant. One year I had delivered a baby two days earlier. Some years my husband conducted a community seder for one night. Some years my parents or sister joined us.

Over the years we have had guests who were close friends, guests who were professional acquaintances, and guests from foreign countries. Every year we ended the seder saying “next year in Jerusalem.”

And as I prepared this week, I felt happy and content that we had so many happy memories and that in these years, when finally we are living in Israel, we are continuing to build memories as our grandchildren now help fill our seder table.

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  1. My near-sister Rona writes:

    … three young soldiers knocked on the door and asked where services were. I told them, and as they began to leave, one said, “And this is where we have our seder?” I answered “Yes.” …


    Some years ago, I was waiting for the last bus out of TelAviv when a young man (part of a young couple) approached the line and asked the fare to Jerusalem.

    A young woman told him the fare and, in the same breath, asked: “yesh l’cha?” (Have you got it?)

    What impressed me was not the kindness (even if you don’t expect it when you arrrive, you grow accustomed to unsolicited kindess in Israel) but the speed, the automaticity … which only comes from preparation & training.


    This week, we were all treated to the picture of an F-16 flat on its back (you know, the part where the crew sits). Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when the pilot’s mother saw *that* picture!

    The plane’s nosegear had collapsed on landing. Now, this is the sort of equipment failure that it used to be hard to train for. An instructor can sit next to a student and turn an engine off during flight, for example, so that the student can learn how to handle this particular in-flight emergency.

    But a collapsing nosegear used to be the sort of thing that you either had enough flight time, situational awareness, native quick thinking & good luck to survive … or not.

    Enter the Age Of Simulation. A collapsing nosegear *is* exactly the sort of failure you can simulate very easily; the pilot’s seat gets slammed forward, the video image shifts down towards the horizon, the speakers make all sorts of screeching metal sounds, and the student flying the simulator ‘ejects’ from the aircraft.

    Maybe; or maybe not; it matters not. Because in hundreds of hours of ‘flying’ the simulator, you can simulate a collapsing nosegear the dozens of times it takes until the student learns how to recognize & react in the pitilessly small amount of time they have to save their life.


    So here’s Rona, getting it right, getting it right in real-time, ages (sorry) before the Age Of Simulation.

    Maybe she had (to quote myself) “enough flight time, situational awareness, native quick thinking & good luck” …


    When grocery shopping on the web began, one of the early surprises was that the most frequently ordered item was … fresh bananas.

    Why? The focus groups revealed that there was a whole generation of web-savvy young people who had gotten very little shopping time with Mom and, as a result, were only to happy to outsource banana selection to someone who just had to know more about it than they.

    Enter the ba’alei tshuvot …

    So where is the (ethically) Kosher Home simulator?

    Oh, sure, you could also have one for food kashrut – dropping a knife laden with a pat of butter onto a cold meat plate, and all that – but what about the training required for uninvited guests, guests with bizarre dietary requirements, guests with bizarre personal histories, guests with a history of conflict with a person known in common …

    And what about the Guest Simulator for the Guests? However is the Newly Observant guest to learn the proper response to being served the non-dairy creamer in its original waxed-cardboard grocery store container after an elegant meal on a table full of polished silver and holiday china? (A. “Thank you, I am familiar with this brand.”)


    Many of us get these things right eventually, but my heart aches a bit for all of the people who don’t get them right the first few times and, as a result, someone walks away, and walks away hurt.

    The Jewish Etiquette Situational Understanding Simulators … I’m looking forward to the Acronym Selection Simulator, myself.


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