Monday, April 13, 2009

Pesach Reflections, Part I

Where to begin, where to begin. I spent my day working on a paper for my Ancient Near East course about the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to ancient studies, as well as cutting down my Golden Calf paper from last semester for a Society of Biblical Literature conference that is less than two weeks away. Oy. Now, I'm a pro on nanogenerators as I prepared a sample blog post for a friend who is considering taking me on as his once-weekly blogger for a new engineering business he's presently setting up. Yes, I might actually become a paid blogger. My take? If you're a good blogger, you can blog on absolutely anything in the world and make it sound like it's your first area of expertise. So here's hoping I'm a good blogger.

But Pesach? I had matzo pizza today and it absolutely elated me. I know I won't feel that way come Thursday, but for now, it's comforting. So far, all of Passover has been incredibly comforting. I've never felt so loved, wanted, needed, accepted, and cared for in my life than I have over the past several days. It's all thanks to the three-day chag. Two days of Passover seders in West Palm Beach, Florida, by Tuvia's family and then Shabbat in West Hartford with our host family and their extended family, as well as many, many guests. I was left feeling exhausted last night, just wanting to sleep, and now that I've slept, all I can think about is how special I feel. How blessed I truly am.

The holiday started out with a devastating turn of events. The iTouch I had bought the week before as a reward for years spent paying off credit card debt, not to mention being accepted to Middlebury's Language School and having my paper accepted to SBL, was stolen from my flight to West Palm from Newark. I'd left it on a seat and it was swiped up in the blink of an eye. The anxiety and stress from the past two weeks culminated in a near-asthma attack, a muffled anxiety attack, and hugs from perfect strangers apologizing for the loss of the $300 item and my sense of security and accomplishment. I spent my time pre-Pesach first night hastily changing passwords to my email, Twitter, Facebook, and other programs that were pre-loaded to appear on my iTouch. So when I got the seder? I didn't want to be there. I wanted to sleep. I wanted to rest and relax and not be near people. I needed to be quiet and sad. I needed to crawl inside myself like I do when things feel like they're falling apart.


I was hugged by Tuvia's grandmother and cousin and aunts and uncles and friends and more family. I was attacked by tiny dogs shoving balls around tiled floors in the most beautiful and grand homes I've ever been in. I was shuffled to a two-table-long seder where the Maxwell House haggadah was the text of choice. Men placed on kippot and the seder leader -- an Israeli whose Hebrew made me feel calm -- began the festive meal with blessings. The food was delicious, the conversation fascinating. I got a chance (both nights, actually) to share my academic works. I got to talk about the Golden Calf and oranges on seder plates and why Jews dress the way they do. I got to put my brain on display and for me? That's something that I live and die for. It's self-indulgent, I'm sure, but I like to teach people things that they might not know or that they might have misconceptions about. It was brilliant and I left the seder that night feeling special, as a true Jew, as someone proud of my knowledge and someone who was sitting around a table with people who will someday be my family. The only bummer of the night? After the festive meal, well, no one continued the seder. There were three of us who had to finish up with the third and fourth cups, letting Elijah in, bensching, and all the other bits and pieces of the second half of the seder. The seder was seriously lacking from the meal. For me, I'd rather have a seriously lacking meal and a full seder. But I shouldn't complain -- it was an amazing time.

Everyone hugged and departed and Tuvia and I trekked off to our hotel near the turnpike. We slept, exhausted, after a long and stressful day that left me without proper footing. As such, we slept in really late Thursday, as our only plan for the day was to head to the Second Seder -- same house, same time, most of the same people. We got up around noon, slapped on some clothes, and headed downstairs for some pre-breakfast coffee. To our excited surprise, the hotel had put out a gigantic plate of matzo! Never in my life had we been so excited to see matzo.

Only in West Palm Beach, folks. Only in West Palm. Did I mention this was my first trip to West Palm?

But more on next time ... stay tuned for Pesach Reflections, Part II!