Oy Bay!

"My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west." — Yehudah Ha-Levi

G’d in the Family

Posted by shiduri on August 8, 2006

When do we eat passover movie



Passover this year was at Aunt Alice’s house, and my Great Gramma Celia’s silverware gleamed beneath her crystal chandelier. Grampa led the Seder, and we were half way through reading the Haggadah — the book that tells the story of the Jewish Exodus out of Egypt into the Land of Israel. “Avadim Hayenu – We were slaves in Egypt,” we read, “and with an outstretched arm, the Almighty delivered us.” We were now on my favorite part of the Seder — the meal. Uncle Jerry poured his sixth cup of wine (we are only supposed to drink four as part of the Passover ritual), Mom chewed on a blade of parsley, while Dad grabbed a fistful of matzoh. We all sat around the table immersed in varying levels of conversation.

Gramma reached across the table and gently stroked the crystal goblet our family used for Elijah’s Cup. Every year, during the Passover Seder, many Jewish families all over the world fill this special glass in the hopes that Elijah the Prophet will come to the Seder, drink some of the wine, and proclaim the beginning of the Messianic Age. Our family’s Elijah’s Cup belonged to Gramma’s father, Great Grampa Chaim, and legend held that this goblet had presided over a century of our family Seders.

“You know,” Gramma said to me, “Seeing my Father’s cup on this table reminds me of when I was a little girl living in Chicago… Those were such wonderful years. We didn’t have very much money, but we loved eachother and were happy.”

“Tell me the story about the ring again, Gramma!” I asked, remembering my favorite piece of family lore.

Gramma touched the princess cut diamond on her right hand. “I grew up with five brothers and sisters — Renee, Eva, Charlie, Harry, and Flora,” she counted. “And because we were such a big family, money had to be carefully rationed. Every week, my Father would come home from work at the butcher shop with his earnings. My Mother would be seated in the big chair, and she would open her apron, and he would put the money in it. This was their ritual every Friday before Shabbos. After he put the money in her apron, My Mother would count it, and she would give him some money back for car fare and cigarettes.”

“What kind of cigarettes did he smoke, Gramma,” I asked.

“Lucky Strikes. And thats what Grampa smoked when I met him”, she added. “Anyway, so every Friday my Mother would count the money and give my Father enough for him to get by on for the week. And this is how it was. But then, on their 50th Wedding Anniversary, my Father gave my Mother this ring.” She held up her right hand where the diamond sparkled. “He had been saving a little bit from the weekly ammount she gave him for years and years. My Father loved my Mother so much — like the way your dad loves Maida.”

The tinkling sound of a knife on glass interrupted us. After working for over a decade in politics, Dad had appointed himself master of ceremonies for our family dinners, and he was trying to get everyone’s attention. In my family this was never easy, but my dad is nothing if not indomitable. Finally, after several tinkling taps on the glass, the din died down, and my father spoke. Usually, we could expect his speeches to go on for five minutes or more, but for a change, he cut to the chase:

“I’m interested in knowing what you think about God.” he said in his sonorous voice

“What do you mean?” someone asked.

“Well, I just want to know your thoughts on the subject –for example, what does God mean to you? Who is God? Does God even exist? Its Passover – we’re talking about how God brought the Jewish people out of the Land of Egypt. Did this happen? Is there a God who spared one people, but killed the first born children of another?”

I rolled my eyes, and Dadturned to me: “Look Sarah, this isn’t ameteur hour — I’m a serious man asking serious questions!”

“Well, I believe in Hashem — in God” Gramma said with quiet dignity. “He created the heavens and the earth — it says so in the Torah.”

“I KNOW God exists” Aunt Alice sniffed.

“How do you know?” Mom asked.

“I KNOW God exists,” Aunt Alice replied imperiously. “And thats that!”

Grampa snorted. “Bah,” he said, “there is no God. If there were, then how do you explain the Holocaust? If this is how God’s Chosen People are treated, then maybe God can choose someone else for a change, hmph!”

“How do you know God is a He?” Cousin Lori asked between mouthfuls of gifilte fish.

Aunt Sue , the youngest of three sisters and always the baby of the family even at 48, tried to appease everyone at the dinnertable. “Well, there’s certainly SOMETHING out there” she said, widening her eyes for emphasis, which made her look like an aging enginue.

You bet,” slurred Uncle Jerry as he raised his sixth — no, seventh glass of wine “Let me tell you how it is. Now don’t ask me how I know, but trust me I know. It all boils down to music. You have to be one with the music. You have to FEEL the music – and then you will find the right Way. Trust me, God is a Great Guitar in the Sky.”


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