Busy day today. I’m making charoset. *
(* Charoset is a dish served at the Seder, the ritual dinner celebrating Passover. The “Last Supper” was reputedly a Seder, though I cannot recall any I attended, where all the guests sat on one side of the table.)
I am generally not into cooking. I can broil chicken or a steak. But I do not consider that cooking; it’s more placing protein in the vicinity of fire.
Actual cooking involves multiple steps and numerous ingredients. There’s the preparation, the measuring, the chopping – in this case, as the recipe demands, finely chopping – and then the blending, produced by the stirring. Actual cooking is time and labor intensive. It requires an apron.
I have contributed charoset to Seders for a number of years. Before having our own Seders, I brought charoset to my agent’s Seder, a man who insisted that everything he was associated with be “First Class”, and had consequently ordered gourmet, catered choroset. Both offerings sat in serving bowls on the Seder table. Word was my charoset was better.
Apparently, I am pretty good at making charoset. (Confession: It is really, really, easy.)
I sit at the kitchen table, wearing an apron imaginatively designed to look like matza, if matza were an apron, instead of a large, Passover, bread-replacing cracker. I start with two cored green apples, which I chop finely, as instructed in the recipe.
I then finely chop a cup of walnuts, add the prescribed proportions of cinnamon, honey and sweet, Passover wine, which is called sacramental wine, but in honor of being in California, I call “Sacramento.”
I blend all the ingredients together in a large bowl, then place it in the refrigerator, to do whatever blended ingredients do when they’re placed in a refrigerator. The word “congeal” comes to mind, but I’m sure there’s a more appetizing one that does not sound so disgusting.
As a child, I was taken to my grandmother’s Seder, which lasted forever, or at least seemed to. In later years, our family drove to Atlantic City, where – pre-Trump – there were Jewish hotels that offered the entire, eight-day Passover package; all you had to do was show up, and pay.
My Uncle Irving presided over the Seders which I attended as a young adult, my participation being rewarded at the end by a silver-cylindered Tuero cigar.
When I moved to California – no Seders. It was just me, and it didn’t seem to matter. Then, as a family person, the Seders came back, first, at my brother’s house, where we flew to Toronto to join in, and later, at our house, run be me, though, sadly, with neither my uncle or my older brother’s elan.
I don’t know if it’s a matter of temperamental differences, or if they believed more than me, or if they were just better at faking it. I say this neither proudly nor unhappily. It is simply the way it is. At the heart of all religious activities for me, there is inevitably a hole where the faith should be.
I just can’t seem to muster it up.
The Burning Bush – which, to me, misses the unique element; it wasn’t that the bush was burning; it was burning and, more impressively, talking – the Ten Plagues, the Exodus from Egypt, the Parting of the Red Sea.
Did these things literally actually happen? Were I presented with a questionnaire on the matter, I am inclined to check the box marked,
I mean, how can you verify such assertions?
“Check the other Bible. It says the same thing.”
There is no “other” Bible! This is the only Bible we’ve got!
What do historians say? They didn’t mention it. With Egyptian historians, it’s understandable.
“Should I put in the Exodus?”
No multiple sources. No corroboration.
You just have to believe.
As I once heard, in another context but it applies here as well,
“Some duzz, and some duzzn’t.”
What you’re left with if you “duzzn’t” is the awareness that on this day in the Jewish calendar, people throughout history and in countless places around the world have celebrated Passover. And that on a number of occasions, most dramatically during the Inquisition and through the Holocaust times – they were forbidden to.
I think about those guys. They couldn’t. I can. It seems like I should then, doesn‘t it?
What Seders finally come down to, for me, is the enjoyment of getting together. And of doing what has always been done.
Sometimes – okay, a lot of the time – there’s an impulse to seek notice and recognition, say, by transmitting random thoughts to strangers on a regular basis. But once in a while, it’s nice to give “Mr. Ego Guy” a rest, and be an anonymous link in a traditional chain.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some charoset to whip up.