Passover is definitely one of the biggie holidays. I remember watching my mother clean our house for Passover when I was a girl. I can still see her up on a step stool, reaching into the back of the cabinet to get the Passover dishes out. She'd switch out our everyday dishes for the plain white ones, and wipe down the shelves throughout the kitchen. Sometimes I was in charge of putting the Passover silverware in the drawers. Then came the time that my brother and I dreaded! Mom cleaned out the pantry of all hametz, the leavened food,the cereal and cookies and pretzels and pasta and just about everything in the pantry that tasted good! Away went basically everything I ate, and in came the MATZOH. For those of you who have never had matzoh, it's like a big cracker, and by cracker I mean piece of cardboard. And you have to eat it with every meal for the entire holiday. Luckily, you can spread globs of margarine or jam on matzoh and make it tasty, and by tasty I mean like cardboard with jam on it. We Jews call it the bread of affliction.
The best part of Passover is the seders. The first and second nights of the holiday, we have a ceremonial meal, a big family feast, and tell the story of the Jews' exodus from bondage in Egypt. For my family, seders were noisy, boisterous affairs. My grandfather, an early 20th century Russian immigrant, chanted the entire Haggadah (the seder guide and storybook) in Old World Hebrew, my cousins and I sang every Passover song as loudly as we could, and all twenty-or-so people around the table (and by table I mean my Aunt Adele's dining room table and several card tables pushed against one another) gabbed and sang and laughed and enjoyed a delicious kosher meal.
I could go on and on about my Passover memories, but I'll refrain! Let's get to the poetry already! I chose this poem because I love the intimate moments this grandfather describes, in addition to his reverence for the seder cermonies. Enjoy a piece of cardboard (and by cardboard I mean matzoh!) as you read! Chag Sameach! And have a wonderful Easter, for those of you who get to eat bread this week!
Gabriel, Age 2, Opens the Door For Elijah
by Sanford Pinsker
My grandson gazes at the seder plate from his position
far down the table, waves his little hands in my direction,
And says, on cue and as he had practiced, "Ma zot?"
Hebrew for "What is all this?" Next year he might know
the Four Questions but for now, Ma zot is sufficient,
and we set about answering him.
True, we took a few liberties with the seder's order,
Gabriel opened the door for Elijah before the meal
In case he got cranky and his mother had to put him down.
For the record, Elijah didn't come this year,
Nor did he drink from the glass near Gabriel's plate.
But I swear I felt the prophet's presence
in the angelic face of my grandson. Both are harbingers
of that better world all of us so desperately need.