Anyway, to sum up the first four days of Pesach Passover, I've compiled this list. This is one of those annoying blog posts to read, unless you're my parents, because it is basically a "What I did on my summer vacation" fifth grade style essay, only in list form. C'est la vie.
- Most heartbreaking moment: Seeing a three-year-old's hopes and dreams get crushed as the grown-ups, once again, perpetuate a lie.
At the second seder I attended, there was a three year old girl, SW. She and her two older brothers (ages 7 and 11) were all sweet and well-behaved, for the most part. I think it was the first seder in which SW could actively participate. All of the kids had taken long naps and were planning on staying up throughout most of the seder. SW just wanted to stay up until dessert. Then she wanted to stay up for bentching [Grace After Meals]. Finally, she said that she just wanted to stay up for Eliyahu [Elijah the Prophet]'s visit, only she kept calling him "Eliya" without the final sylable. Her 11 year old brother, AW, said to her as they went to the door, "You know that Eliyahu is invisible, don't you?" She nodded affirmatively. But she clearly didn't, because she went into hysterics as soon as the front door was closed and her parents cheerfully said, "Okay, Eliyahu came, now it's time for bed!" She wailed, "But I want to see Eliyahu! Eliyahu didn't come yet!" Shoot. No kidding. Her father bundled her up to bed and later reported that as she was falling asleep, she said, "Maybe Eliya will come tomorrow..."
- Best overall Pesach-related Pesach experience: Leading the first seder.
I led one seder last year, too, and what can I say? I like leading things. I like being in charge. Most of all, I liked the feeling of responsibility that it gave me. It pushed me to read Judith's Hauptman's "How Old is the Haggadah?" (JUDAISM, Winter 2002) and at least the first half of Joshua Kulp's "The Origins of the Seder and Haggadah" (Currents in Biblical Research, Vol. 4, No. 1, 109-134, 2005). I finished Kulp's article last night. I also read through selections from Midrash Rabbah on Shemot, looking for interesting things. I was able to share two or three short new ideas, which made me very happy.
- Best consumer experience: Going to Cody's Books in San Francisco yesterday (the perfect day!).
In short, I purchased R' Baruch Epstein's Haggadah/Commentary on Pirkei Avot (actually, it's a reprint of 2/3 of Baruch She'Amar) for $3.99. Alas, this morning's paper said that Cody's Books is going to have to close its San Francisco location (the second Berkeley store will stay open; the first closed last May). One more terrific independent bookstore bites the dust.
There were a few great things about this experience. I was planning on walking from the CalTrain station to my friend EBC's apartment in Russian Hill, which is about a 2.5 mile walk according to publicroutes.com (new website I found that gives walking routes! but I would never plan a route ahead of time, since there are fewer things more lovely than traipsing around a moderately unfamiliar city with nothing but a map and my wits). It was absolutely gorgeous out. In a moment that will surely go down in history, I managed to resist the temptation to buy, oh, about five other books that I looked at (none of which were full price, but all of which were more than 50% of full price--i.e., an unreasonable amount to pay--and none of which I need, of course). Finally, I went to the remaindered table, and after looking through every other book there, I found this haggadah. And it's perfect not just because I happen to like haggadot, and not just because it cost $3.99 in a bookstore chock full of tempting $24.99 hardcovers and $13.99 paperbacks, but because it also includes a commentary on Pirkei Avot, which I studied (religiously) between Pesach and Shavuot for a year or two, but then grew tired of. In it's final perfectness, the outside of this haggadah is pretty--a light, cream-colored background with gold lettering. Who could ask for anything more?
The rest of yesterday was also pretty fantastic. Before my lucky find at Cody's Books, I walked through the park at Yerba Buena Gardens. After my lucky find, I walked up Stockston Street to Union Square, and eventually made it to Grace Cathedral. From there, I walked up Leavenworth Street, which has some lovely views of the bay, including Alcatraz. Apparently, I also climbed Nob Hill. I knew it was very hilly, just not that it was Nob Hill. EBC told me. Anyway, it was a great San Francisco day. Once I got to EBC's place, I reacquainted myself with her daughter C by doing a puzzle
withfor her and by reading her two Madeline books while she cuddled up next to me, and met her new baby daughter H. Madeline books are the best! After the kids went down for their naps, I gave and received the annual update. Then I took the lazy route (bus) back to the CalTrain station through Chinatown and the train back to my grandmother's.
- Most guilt-inducing eat: Veal.
I don't buy veal. (Actually, I don't buy any red meat, but veal is the only red meat I won't buy out of principle. The rest I don't buy because it's expensive, fairly unhealthy, and I don't know how to cook it. Plus, I'd much rather get my saturated fat from ice cream than from beef. No contest.) You all know, of course, that veal is created by penning up baby animals in tight spaces and not letting them move around much so that their meat stays soft and tender and yummy for us to eat. It's not very nice. If you're going to kill an animal to eat it, you should at least treat it decently while it's alive. And it's true that I'm a bit of a hypocrite and don't only buy free-range eggs and chickens, which I would if I was a good person, but since I hardly buy any eggs or chickens these days, I think God will forgive me. All my kale, whole grains, and tofu are 100% free range. But the veal was served to me at one seder, and my God, was it delicious! And I will probably eat it again tonight. Once I've fallen, does it really matter if I fall again? Thank you to my kind aunt who made it and even made an alternative for those who don't eat veal (like me). Only I do eat veal, apparently. This is why I am a flexitarian instead of a vegetarian or even a pescatarian. Meat tastes too damn good.
- Most guilt-inducing read: Cosmopolitan.
The magazine. Yeah. I know. My excuse is that I bought it for my little sister, who put in a request from Israel. I wonder how many other people sat down the second day of Pesach with Midrash Rabbah, Cosmo, "The Origins of the Seder and Haggadah" (Currents in Biblical Research, Vol. 4, No. 1, 109-134, 2005), and a literary novel (as opposed to, say, romance novel or mystery)? I picked up The Worst Day of My Life, So Far from the hefker ("free stuff") table at my building. The novel is pretty depressing (it's about a woman who returns home to the rural South to care for her mother who has Alzheimer's), so I haven't gotten that far in it. I mean, look at what it's competing with! Cosmo and Midrash Rabbah!