As part of his Easter sermon, our pastor told us that, in most years, Easter is always the Sunday during Passover. I knew they were always close together, but I didn’t know they had to be. He explained it very well, and I wasn’t the only person in church who went “oh!” when he was done. I reckon maybe Jews know why that is, but most Christians I know don’t know a whole lot about Passover.
And there’s a lot to know about Passover. It’s a complicated holiday. And the most complicated part is the seder – the special dinner they have on the first night.
I’ve been to a seder, so I have a good idea of what it’s all about. How did I end up at a seder in Maryville, TN? Simple: I had a Jewish girlfriend in high school, Shoshanah Rabinowitz.
I think I’ve mentioned her before, but I’ve never given y’all any details. So here goes:
Me and Shoshanah started dating in the fall of our junior year, so, by the time Passover came round, we’d gotten very close. We knew each others’ parents, and our parents had met each other, so inviting me over for the seder was pretty normal. Shoshanah thought I would be interested, and I reckon she just wanted to have me there, so she got the ok to invite me from her parents.
Shoshanah gave me homework: a copy of the book they read at the Seder and some links to Jewish websites that would explain it. I wasn’t exactly Rabbi Hunter when I got to the Rabinowitzes, but I wasn’t a totally clueless goy (a non-Jew) either lol. If you were asked to draw a picture of someone who isn’t Jewish, you’d probably end up with a picture of me, so everyone there must have known I was a ringer. (Sometimes Shoshanah even called me “Supergoy” lol.) But, if I had to be a goy, Shoshanah wanted me not to be a dumb goy.
Shoshanah said the seder could get real boring, but I thought it was pretty interesting. They taught us back in Sunday school that the last supper was a seder, so I was curious about that…although I reckon Jesus did it different from Mr. Rabinowitz lol.
The Rabinowitzes weren’t super religious or anything. They didn’t eat pork (that made getting a pizza with Shoshanah a headache…although I got used to mushrooms and jalapeños) and they went to temple in Knoxville on the big holidays, but they didn’t have separate dishes or not drive on Saturdays or anything like that. Shoshanah had a bat mitzvah before I knew her, and, when we were dating, her super bratty brother was getting ready for his bar mitzvah.
Shoshanah’s brother was the biggest troublemaker I ever met. He would spy on me and Shoshanah and then go tell his parents. We were lucky he never caught us doing it (the first episode of Game of Thrones should have been a warning to him lol), but he still stirred up plenty of trouble. There were a few times when I really wanted to beat the crap outta him…but high school football players can only beat up 7th graders if they’re their little brothers lol. But Yonah really was a messed up kid. I went to his bar mitzvah, but the Rabinowitzes saw to it that that was the first step in breaking me and Shoshanah up. So there was a shitload of drama that day, but that’s a story y’all will have to wait for. I’m supposed to be writing about Passover here.
So I was all prepared for the seder. I probably knew my Bible at least as well as any of the other people at the table, so I already knew a lot about things like the ten plagues. But nobody ever explained why you dip your finger in your grape juice for every plague. I asked Shoshanah, but she just said it was just something you did. I had some other questions too, but I wasn’t going to hold up things by asking Mr. Rabinowitz when everyone was waiting for dinner.
In addition to Shoshanah, Yonah and their parents, Mr. Rabinowitz’ mother had come down from New York, and there was another Jewish family from Maryville who also go to the temple in Knoxville. They were a father, mother and three kids, one of who got to read the thing the youngest person at the table has to read. He was five and he did it in Hebrew, so I was pretty dang impressed. (Mr. Rabinowitz did most of the Seder in English, however, although they all speak Hebrew. They all go to Israel for 2 weeks every summer.) I didn’t get to know the other family (I was too busy holding Shoshanah’s hand under the table), but they seemed pretty nice. The kids did look super bored, though, especially in the part that came after dinner. There was a lot of singing in that part, and I have to admit that I felt pretty left out when everybody else knew the songs.
Just to show that Passover isn’t so totally different from our family holidays, there was also what I could tell was a pity invite. It was a dude from Mr. Rabinowitz’ office whose family was back up north. I don’t know what you do if you’re alone on the seder night, so it was good that he had someplace to go. He was a baseball fan and we talked about the Smokies some. So he wasn’t like a lot of pity invites who just sit there and look awkward.
I was the one who was supposed to sit there and look awkward lol. But I had Shoshanah to talk to, and this was the part of my relationship with Shoshanah when Mr. & Mrs. Rabinowitz liked me well enough. (They didn’t like me at first, of course, because I was a jock and I wasn’t Jewish, but then they realized that I was a pretty decent guy and things were cool. Then they decided me and Shoshanah were getting too serious and that was when they basically started hating me.)
There’s more to the story.