To paraphrase Shakespeare, "The Seder's the thing."
After the two Seders and the intense preparation that led up to them, six days remain, but to me (and to most everyone I talk to) it feels as though Passover is over.
Our Seders lasted well into the early morning. We didn't begin the first one until close to ten o'clock Saturday night--we couldn't set the table or the Seder plates until after the Sabbath had ended. And we were over twenty people at the Seder, so it took some time to figure out where everyone would sit. My fault, really. I should have decided before, but I was too busy whipping egg whites and grating apples.
All the items on the Seder plate, arranged in a predetermined order, commemorate the slavery of the Israelites in Egypt, and the miracle of their redemption. ("Seder" means order, by the way. The entire evening is orchestrated.)
Into small glass bowls I spooned the charoset (a paste of ground walnuts, grated apples, wine, sugar, ginger, and cinnamon that symbolizes the mortar that cemented the bricks the Israelites were forced to make and use to construct edifices for Pharoah) and the "chazeret" (ground horseradish; when prepared correctly, even a tiny amont brings tears to your eyes and can permanently clear your sinuses; ours, sadly and mysteriously, lost its oomph sometime Friday). I placed the "marror" (a bit of romaine lettuce and a piece of whole horseradish; the word means "bitter"), the "karpas" (small pieces of boiled potato to be dipped into the salt water that signifies tears; one of my sons-in-law, following his family's tradition, uses celery), the browned, hard-boiled egg that represents the "korbon Chagiga" (a ceremonial sacrifice). We had a few minutes of panic before we located the "z'roah"--the grilled chicken drumstick (my daughter-in-law uses a lamb shankbone) that symbolizes the Pascal lamb.
Our grandchildren sat at the table for much of the Seder. They sang in unison the "Ma Nishtanah," a four-part song that asks, "How does this night [of Pesach] differ from the nights of the rest of the year?" They were enthralled when our youngest son brought to life the ten plagues that God visited on Pharoah and his people to encourage them to let the Israelites go. He (our son, not Pharoah) turned water into "blood" with the help of red food coloring, pretended to be one of the wild beasts and chased them around the room, rained mini marshmallows of "hail" onto them and the table.
Ours is an eclectic group, and with that comes tension. Some like the Seder to move quickly. Others prefer to discuss the commentaries on the Hagaddah (the booklet that tells the story of Passover). I enjoy the commentaries but want to please everyone, which, I have come to recognize, is impossible. And yet, I keep trying....
Someone had frozen a bottle of Diet Coke (the kosher-for-Passover variety, minus corn syrup) to speed up the chilling process. Someone else opened the bottle...and precipitated a volcano that sprayed a lava of brown liquid all over the table and floor and onto our cream colored sofa and the edges of our (thank God) rolled-up area rug.
The "lava" was blotted. I tripped on the edge of the rug and fell onto the hardwood floor.
But no lasting damage to the rug or sofa (the "lava" had beaded onto the fabric), or to my body, aside from two bruised knees and a dent in my pride.
Our second Seder was less eventul, more relaxed. The second Seder always is, I think. The kinks are worked out. No frozen soda.
And now we're in the intermediate days of Passover--"chol ha'moed." We can drive and use electricity. I can go online and check my e-mail.
The fridges (our old one is in the garage) are emptying out, and so is the house. Our married daughter and her husband, who live in New York, are skiing somewhere near Vancouver. They'll be back on Friday for the last days of the holiday, as will the rest of our married children with their families.
We've consumed more than a third of the eighteen pounds of "shmura matzo" we imported from New York--hand-made circles of the "bread of affliction" (in their rush to escape Egypt, the Israelites had no time to wait for their bread to rise), made of wheat supervised from the time it has been harvested. The matzo, thin and crisp, is delicious. We eat it plain, or slathered with margarine or butter (and sprinkled with salt) or with cream cheese. (Sprinkle sugar on the cream cheese, and it tastes like cheese cake.)
Or we eat it with the leftover "charoset." I always make mounds of "charoset." Each year someone says, "Why don't we make it during the year? It's so delicious."
But we never do.
Which is the way it should be, I think.