Tuesday, April 7, 2009

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

This is the most wonderful time of the year. Not December!

Seriously, it is. Baseball has begun another season. For real. No more Spring Training games with guys wearing numbers like 64 and 78, as impressive as they try to be, we all know that Billy Bob Whatshisname from Grover's Point, Indiana is headed for AA ball in Akron, and that the real reason that our star outfielder wasn't in the line up against the Giants in Scottsdale last week is because he did not trust anyone else to drive his Bentley back to Los Angeles. Spring Training is great, but after six weeks of Minor League games, it is time to play for real. And that they are.

Meanwhile in Scottsdale, it is painfully obvious that nothing has changed. To wit:

I had to skillfully park my Prius today at the coffee place because some Las Vegas Tan 60 year old guy in shorts and a button-down left his $300,000 orange Lamborghini in one and a half parking spaces. I suppose that, in and of itself, is sort of rude anyway, but in FRONT of a place where most people are working on perfecting their resumes? That is just plain "Scottsdale".
I am really not complaining, Per Se, but certain things are just annoying.

A few things in Scottsdale that annoy not:

* Debra (DK) Hillard is an amazing and brilliant artist. Both on canvas and in print. Watch for her. Her work is simply from the heart, moving and incredible.

* Jewish Day Schools in the Phoenix/Scottsdale are a wonderful thing to have available to the community. If you are here, please support them. If we don't teach our children, who will? http://www.thekingdavidschool.org/ and http://www.pardesschool.org/ are both K-8 and do a terrific job.

* All above Spring Training rhetoric aside, the San Francisco Giants' facility is top notch. If you are ever in the area in March, you will want to spend an afternoon. Or three.

* And then there is Hazzan Bernard Savitz. Cantor Savitz is all he should be and more. He is warm, caring, and Heymishe. If you have to ask what Heymishe means, it means exactly how it sounds. Humble, warm and open. Hazzan Bernie was honored at Har Zion a few weeks ago. His contributions on a daily basis to our community are too great in number to begin to recall. Way to go, Bern. Yaasher Koach. May you go from Strength to Strength.Back on topic. This really the most wonderful time of the year. The grass is green, the flowers bloom and the world is renewed in its splendor of creation and re-creation.

And-- It is Passover Time.

To coin a phrase (as if I never have done that before), a long long time ago, I can still remember... Searching the house for "chometz" (leavened breads) during Passover! We are supposed to, and in fact, commanded to do this search before the holiday, and dispose of any leavened breads found, and we did that; Goose/Duck Feather and Wood Spoon and all, but this search, or these searches, were performed during the holiday. In secret. A sort of clandestine sibling operation from year to year. So deprived were my sisters and I of things like Pop-Tarts and Twinkies and, oh the humanity, pink and white sugar covered animal cookies! So deprived were we for EIGHT WHOLE DAYS, that we had, but one mission in life.... FIND CHOMETZ!

Once found, and find it, we would, we would not eat it!! We "dasn't"!!! We should not, could not, would not, under any circumstances eat that Pop-Tart! It, along with countless other boxes of forbidden fruit (breads) would hide in boxes under the pool table, or in our father's wood-work shop in the garage, or under a sheet at the bottom of a closet. And it would stay there. Right up until day eight, seven o'clock pm.

Back then, our Seders (directly translated as 'order', known as the Passover Dinner(s)) were very different from the first night to the second. The first night was always held at my great grandparents' apartment on South Sherbourne Drive, between Cashio and Pico. The grown-ups would rattle through the "Haggadah" (Passover Liturgy, directly translated as 'story'), all in a never to be understood form of Hebrew with a Czech/Hungarian flair, that even today, I would have trouble following; Pass horrid smelling hard boiled eggs and boiled potatoes across the table; Feebly sing several verses of "Dayenu" and then, around 9:00, we would eat- and the food was always burnt. Then, the grown-ups would fight. With themselves, with each other, with whomever. The arguing was so incessant, that it became commonplace.

We would, though, taste Pesach. We would be indoctrinated into Passover from the age of infancy and begin to understand what the holiday means to us.

The second night used to belong to my father's parents and was similar to the first night as to menu and palatability of said menu. The neighborhood was the same - Night two was at Wooster and Cashio; but the second Seder was very different in every other regard. My grandfather, Louis Abrams would sit at the head of the table and rather than the 'normal' custom of the youngest at the table asking "Why is this night different than all other nights"... He would ask the question of us kids and let us answer with the knowledge that we had gained from Hebrew and Sunday school. He would then, elaborate and answer all of our questions with others and transform an otherwise boring night (see the first night above) into a magical wonder world of knowledge and love of our heritage. When we lost him in 1971, we lost a great man. A quiet, great man.

From then on, the second Seder was held at our house. And my dad planned it out. I mean, for weeks before Passover my dad, Haggadah in hand would plan who read what. Who would read the English; Who would read the Hebrew; Who would say the blessing for the first cup of wine; the second; the matzo - It was planned out like any first rate, first class choreographed production. And, it was exciting. Us kids, and our cousins and our friends competed for parts.

My dad's Seders gave us more meaning than we had experienced before. It was magic. This will be our second Pesach without him. It is his absence of physical presence that I will always miss the most.

As the years passed, and table locations changed from my grandparents home to my parents', and several years ago, to my home, the older traditions have been replaced with new ones, and the new traditions have been replaced with even newer ones, but the central message remains the same: עבדים היינו לפרעה במצרים. We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the L-rd, our G-d, took us out from there with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm. If the Holy One, blessed be He, had not taken our fathers out of Egypt, then we, our children and our children's children would have remained enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt.

These words have not changed. Year after year, we remember the words of the Haggadah which tells us that In every generation a person is obligated to regard himself as if he had come out of Egypt, as it is said: "You shall tell your child on that day, it is because of this that the L-rd did for me when I left Egypt."

As the main focus of our heritage reminds us, we must teach our children. This is the true beauty of Pesach. The true meaning of Passover for me.

This year from the Midbar; From the desert which is Arizona, I wish you all Chag Kasher v'Sameach. A very Happy and Kosher Passover holiday.

With Love and Blessings, Ahavah u'Vrachot...
Next year in Jerusalem!