Saturday, March 27, 2010

New Passover Poem

Starting in 1998 and again in 2001, I composed poems that were aimed at injecting a bit of humor into the Passover celebration. The first poem, "The Night of the First Seder" actually won first prize in a competition sponsored by MSN's Israel and Jewish Singles Froums. The second poem, "The Lost Matzah" was never submitted to a competition, but proved to be a favorite through the years with the younger set. I was struck by my muse this weekend and came up with a rather lengthy entry that I thought I would share. It is simply titled "The Seder." I hope you like it. In case you don't know any of the Hebrew or Yiddish words, here is a glossary. Seder means "order" and is the Hebrew name for the religious readings and the order in which the particular rituals are practiced. Bubbie and zadie are the Yiddish names for grandma and grandpa, while tante is the Yiddish name for aunt. Abba is the Hebrew name for father, not the Swedish rock band. The haggadah is the book of prayers and commentaries from which everyone at the seder table reads. Matzah is unleavened bread commanded to be eaten during the period of Passover. Charosets is a delicious mixture of nuts, apples, cinammon and wine or grape juice. Gefilte fish is a combination of pounded whitefish and pike that is cooked and served chilled as an appetizer. The afikoman is a piece of unleavened bread that is hidden and returned by children late after the meal to be consumed as dessert. Two of the most well-known songs sung during the Passover meal are Dayenu ("It would have been enough!") and Chad Gadya ("One only kid"). As I indicated earlier, you are welcome to enjoy, but please do not reprint or copy this without my permission as it is copyrighted material.

The Seder

My mama called out to my brother and me
“Please wash your hands now. Turn off the TV.
“It’s time for the seder, come downstairs, behave”
And in three little seconds we had started to lave.

No sooner had we finished, we heard the door open
It was Uncle Morey, the bachelor, in from Hoboken
Next came the neighbors, the Cohens and the Franks
Then the widow Mrs. Goldberg, who offered us her thanks.

Bubbie and zadie came in with two shopping bags
Full of gifts for us kids, some still with store tags.
We hadn’t had a chance to play with those toys
When mama disapprovingly said to us “Boys,”

“Put those away now and come to the table.
Ask Aunt Rosa if she feel’s she is able.
She’s not been well lately and could use your support.”
So, the two of us went to the den with a snort.

There we found Aunt Rosa – she was fast asleep
Laid out on the coach and counting sheep.
“Wake up, Tante Rosa! The seder’s almost here.”
She was startled at first, but then said “Dear,”

“I wasn’t asleep. I was just resting my eyes.
Now help get me up you two little guys.”
The two of us helped her move to her chair
It took quite some effort, but soon she was there.

Then in from the kitchen daddy came in with a grin
It wouldn’t be long before the service would begin.
He poured our four glasses of good kosher wine
He inspected each setting and then he said “Fine.”

“Open your haggadahs and turn to page three
And hold up your glasses and sing Kiddush with me."
After drinking our grape juice, we washed hands once more
Then daddy passed the parsley and we knew what was in store

We had to dip the greens in salt water twice
The taste on our tongues was not very nice.
Next he held up three matzah and broke the middle one
He wrapped it in a napkin and got up when he was done.

When he returned to the table, it was not in his hand
With cunning he had hidden it, just as he’d planned.
Abba turned to my brother with a wink and a tease
“Chant the Four Questions for us all, if you please.”

When my brother was finished, mama complimented him
All the praise from friends and relatives made my head spin.
Now I love my little brother, that statement is true,
But I would’ve liked it more, if they’d complimented me too.

Somewhere around here we had another glass
Of wine or some juice for the underage class.
It wasn’t long after that, the plagues we were learning.
The waters of the Nile into blood G-d was turning.

Then next came the frogs, the gnats and the flies
Dead cattle, large boils, and hail with a surprise.
It had fire inside it that burned the ground black
Locusts and darkness set all Egypt aback.

The last of the plagues was one most forlorn
It was the slaying of all the Egyptian firstborn.
That was the reason Pharaoh told Moses to get out
And the reason the slaves praised G-d with a shout.

Dad had us drop grape juice, the others dropped wine
To commemorate the plagues, which made us feel fine.
We read in the haggadahs about unleavened bread
What bitter herbs meant and our speed when we fled.

Then daddy pointed to a lamb bone and held it up high
He spoke of a sacrifice and the reason he said why
The children of Israel were the ones G-d had spared.
I looked at Uncle Morey and I wondered if he cared.

He was starting to nod off and I nudged my little brother
Who giggled so loud, he got looks from our mother.
Then daddy got up and washed his hands one more time
But this time he said a blessing with no reason or rhyme.

He said another blessing this time for matzah bread
And when he had finished “Amen!” we all said.
Then finally, my favorite – charosets – was combined
With bitter herbs on matzah; it was less than refined.

Then all of a sudden, the haggadahs were replaced
With plates of gefilte fish having exquisite taste.
Then to throw Mrs. Frank and Mrs. Cohen for a loop
My mother brought out bowls of her matzah ball soup.

The soup was so savory and the matzah balls were so airy
The faces at the table were so happy it was scary.
But then came the brisket and the turkey and potatoes
Although Tante Rosa only wanted a salad with tomatoes.

It was a meal fit for a king or a queen or a prince
I don’t recall as festive a feast we’ve had since.
Then after dessert, daddy asked us to find
The afikoman he’d hidden somewhere behind

The painting of Big Zadie that hung in the hall
I found it quite easily and showed it to all.
Rewarded with some gelt, I felt very proud.
Everyone at the table sang out their prayers loud.

Daddy poured out glasses three and then came four
I heard Mrs. Cohen scold her husband “Nothing, more!”
It was very late now and I felt kinda drowsy
Mr. Cohen looked like he was feeling quite lousy.

My little brother and I joined in the energetic singing
Of Dayenu and Chad Gadya. Our ears were left ringing.
We ended the evening with a pledge very clear
In Jerusalem we would gather for the seder next year.

Except for Mr. Cohen everyone left feeling well fed
So, the two of us went upstairs and climbed into bed.
We had done so many things. We had had so much fun
That we hated to see the seder end its short run.

Then a thought happened to me as I started to doze
My mind was still racing as my eyes went to close.
We would do it all again at the seder, second night!
Then, alas, Mama and daddy turned out the room light.

©2010 Alan Smason

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