Monday, February 12, 2018

Of Rolling Pins and Plans

It's getting to be that time of year again when Jewish women world-wide turn their thoughts to spring. That lovely little holiday, Tu B'Shevat, the "birthday" of the trees, has come and gone, leaving in its wake a trail of half-chewed carob, dried date ends, grape stems devoid of grapes, and those little crown thingees you find on the tops of dried figs. Gone are the 7 species, replaced by dough chilling in the fridge, jams stocked in jars, and that endless quest for the perfect hamataschen recipe. For years, I've used Martha Stewart's (yeah, I know...but it's indestructible,) but this year, I may have to try the one my daughter-in-law uses from Tori Avery. (There's also a pareve version.) We worked with it on Sunday and I was duly impressed with how it rolled out. Of course, we had an excellent head roller with us, armed with a rolling pin that once belonged to my great-grandmother, making Little Miss the 6th generation to use it. 

I think that's kinda cool, actually. The rolling pin was one of the few things Great-grandma Nechama brought with her from Russia. It's got a notch on one end so everyone would know it was the dairy rolling pin. When I got married a zillion years ago, the decision was made by my Aunt Rose and her sister-in-law, my Grandma Sarah, that it would go to me because I had a kosher home. And keeping along those same lines, one day it will go to my daughter-in-law and Little Miss, G-d willing for the same reasons. 

If you don't know what Purim is about, read the Book of Esther. It's very short, kind of exciting, and doesn't mention G-d once. Depending how you read it, it's a story about the empowerment of women. 

But underneath this simple bodice ripper of a story, there are far more complicated issues at hand, some of which might sound like they were ripped from our own headlines. The deposed Queen Vashti can be seen as a brave wise-woman, Esther is trapped in a rather bizarre marriage to a king that is a total doofus, her Uncle Mordechai is a manipulative SOB, and Haman, the evil not-so-genius, is an moronic mouthpiece of hate. 

Gee, boys and girls, can you draw some parallels here?

Unlike the story of Purim, we are living in an all-too-real world of baseless hatred and painfully bad behavior. We have a president who is not all that different from Ahashverush, a guy who is led down a  poisonous path by an advisor so filled with hate that he cannot see past it. Sure, Bannon may be gone, but the hate-mongers are still sitting in the big white house on Pennsylvania Avenue. The hate pours out of 1600 like a lava flow: hot, malignant, and destroying everything in its path. 

Unfortunately, Melania is no Esther; sure, she's trapped in a marriage, but she is, to date, impotent. At the State of the Union, she looked miserable much of the time, and while she rose at other parts of Feckless Leader's speech, she did not rise with the rest of the claque when he spoke about family values. It was like taking the subtle a protest as she could manage. She has no ability to open her mouth, protest his unconscionable behavior, or do much else besides sulk at public events. She telegraphs the message she wants We, the People to get, and I hold by my earlier assessment: FREE MELANIA!

But Purim is only the lead-up to the big deal of Passover. Everyone knows the story of how Moses went down the Nile in a basket, only to be picked up by Pharaoh's daughter, but how much thought have you ever given to that nameless princess, or the two Egyptian midwives, Shifra and Puah, so important in the Torah that they have names. These three Egyptian women chose life...the life of a baby floating down the river, the lives of Hebrew mothers and their children... without caring much for their own lives. All three knew the consequences, and all three took those risks. The Children of Israel would not be
the Children of Israel without those three women. They weren't part of us, but their choices insured we would survive. And we have. We have outlasted Amalek, the Philistines,  Babylon, Persia, Imperial Rome, the Inquisition, the pogroms in Russia, World War II, more pogroms in Poland, various Arab attacks on Israel.....but wait...there will be more. There always is. As they say, "in every generation..."

Tzadok & Nechama - 1917
Which brings me back to my great-grandmother Nechama. She took a giant risk leaving a married daughter behind in Russia, then getting on a boat with 6 kids to join her husband and her next oldest daughter in America. She left pogroms, oppression, and a world full of hate to start a new life in a place where she didn't speak the language. She got here. She made a home for her family. She kept everyone together. And she lived to see the next generation take root in this nation. 

I can only imagine what she would think about our current state of current affairs. I wonder what she would tell me to pack to plan for Plan B, and I would make sure that rolling pin goes with Little Miss.

But most of all, I like imagining how happy she would be to know Little Miss rolls hamantaschen with her dairy rolling pin.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Lekvar still makes the best filling for Hamantaschen.

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