Twelve years ago, Ziggy and I sat at the first seder night at my Cousins L&T. I don't remember much about the seder. All the usual suspects were there...except for the Senior Son who was sedering with cousins in Milwaukee. But Ziggy and I had a secret we were not about to share with anyone there...except Cousins L&T....and that was mostly because T was more than just a relative, he was our doctor. Twelve years later, I still get the pit in my stomach on the first night of Passover. Jews all over the globe may be remembering the exodus from Egypt, but I mostly remember the exodus from the Land of the Living.
The next morning we went to see an asshole of an oncologist who, without ever meeting our eyes or telling us there were paths to explore, told Ziggy to go home and get his stuff in order because he was going to die. Soon.
Twelve years later, we are in our second pandemic Pesach. We are lucky because this year our pod of 5 can be together and Senior Son can zoom in again. Little Miss is 6, Young Sir is 3, and both like stories. So while the Haggadah is open before us, we spend much time telling stories. Stories of seders that were, Passovers that were family milestones, and stories about the special Pesach pieces that were on the table.
|empty space for iPad|
The seder had most of the usual parts, although somewhat abbreviated for the target audience. I was amazed how my boys not just knew the haggadah really well, but could recite favorite parts at will. I never knew the Junior Son really likes the part about My father was a wandering Aramean...... Or that the senior son (who was sans haggadah) had big chunks memorized. As they reminded their feeble, old mother, they'd been doing this for almost 40 years now, and gee, wouldn't I think they would have a decent command of the seder? I could just hear Ziggy chiding me for the same thing.
Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah said: "I am like a man of seventy years old, yet I did not succeed in proving that the exodus from Egypt must be mentioned at night-until Ben Zoma explained it: "It is said, `That you may remember the day you left Egypt all the days of your life;' now `the days of your life' refers to the days, `all' indicates the inclusion of the nights!"
I always liked that Ben Zoma guy and his explanation about how ALL meant the whole thing, the nights, too. Ziggy and I used to talk about that passage just about every year as we did dishes. We always talked about what it means to remember. Is it active? Is it passive? Is it just a conversation? But it wasn't until he left me alone doing dishes that I fully understood what it meant...and what counting days meant.
The first day begins the Sefirat ha'Omer, the counting of the Omer. That lasts for seven weeks until Shavuot. 49 days. I was always aware of the omer days; it was on my calendar. Since my consciousness-clock is set to the Hebrew lunar calendar, I automatically counted those days. While I was counting that year, I did not realize what I was counting. I didn't know I wasn't just leaving Egypt that night; I was leaving life as I knew it for over 30 years.
In 2009, Shavuot began on Thursday evening, May 28th. My parents flew in, the Senior Son came home, and shabbat dinner wasn't just shabbat dinner, it was Ziggy's 56th birthday. That Sunday, we had t'nai'im for the Junior Son and the future Mrs. Junior Son because we knew Ziggy was not going to make it to the wedding and this would put his signature on one of their wedding documents. We celebrated as much as we could with a tear in our eyes and a hitch in our breathing. Ziggy held court; close friends and relatives came. And we held our breath, hoping and praying for a miracle that never came.
7 days later, on the following Sunday, Ziggy left the building.
Ben Zoma was right. all the days include the nights also.