Tygerpen | Eggs aplenty, but no room for bunny

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Last year I learned my annual 12-hour Passover seder was outdated, replaced by “The Five Minute Seder” and other time-saving haggadahs that omit important seder rituals, like the Washing of the Hands (instead, the table is set with Purell), Opening the Door for Elijah (unless he’s clean-shaven, wearing nice casual) and the Condemnation of the Matzah Balls.

As a result of this trend, I decided last Passover to only attend a second-night seder at a synagogue.

My “friends” all claimed their seders were strictly for their immediate families and closest 50 relatives, but really they were too cowardly to admit why I wasn’t invited: When I’m asked to contribute food, I always bring a generous tray of matzah. That’s the only food course that’s easy to prepare (except for opening the box), and it rarely is criticized, unlike, say, jarred gefilte fish that must be served with a ladle full of horseradish.

The food at the synagogue seder last year was reasonable, but I missed the important symbols that I always provide at my own seder. Like stains. My white linen tablecloth and napkins display colorful red, brown or greenish-black stains from seders past. This continues the Stain Tradition, as my grandparents observed years ago with their coffee- and wine-stained Maxwell House haggadahs.

This year, I’m looking again for a seder to attend. Among the choices are traditional ones — sponsored by Jews for Jesus and messianic Jews — and mainstream Christian seders. I suppose I should be grateful these folks appreciate the similarities between Easter and Passover that prompt their festivities.

Eggs, for example, are significant on both holidays. The tradition of hiding Easter eggs for children is somewhat similar to parents hiding the afikomen during the seder.

But then there’s the Easter bunny. A rabbit just doesn’t translate to Passover. Or so I thought, until I read an explanation sorely in need of spell-check:

“By 1680, the first story about a rabbi laying eggs and hiding them in a garden was published. In modern times the rabbi brings Easter eggs. Sometimes the rabbi carries colored eggs in a basket with candy and toys for kids. In some cultures rabbis, which represent fertility, are symbols of Easter. Rabbis are prolific breeders. It is therefore not surprising that rabbis should become fertility symbols. Because of their springtime mating antics, rabbis give birth to large litters in the early spring.”

The Easter bunny is, in fact, officially recognized in America every spring when the White House sponsors an Easter egg roll. Last month, the lottery was held to select the 35,000 people who will attend. That’s a lot more people than are allowed to attend President Obama’s Passover seder, which he’s hosted since 2009. As I look for a seder this year, I’m offended there isn’t a lottery for a seder conducted by any of the following: the POTUS (President of the United States), SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) or COITUS (Congresspeople Occasionally in the United States).

Based on what I read about last year’s presidential seder, however, I’m probably better off not attending, since it broke so many Passover seder rules. First, Malia and Sasha were not seated at a kids’ card table, an appalling breach of tradition. Nor were there folding chairs at the table, important symbols in the haggadah when Rabbis Eliezer, Yehoshua, Akiva and Tarfon dined together to discuss the Exodus, until their students came and respectfully said, “What, you’re still talking? How much longer? We’re hungry.”

The White House used a pastry chef (!) to make dessert — an apricot sponge cake. The recipe that was later released omitted an ingredient, according to tradition. Since the historical beginning of seders, it’s been a requirement that desserts be inedible so guests can experience even more Israelite suffering. My aunt annually met this sacred requirement when she served a sponge cake with frozen strawberries and then cut slices with a chainsaw.

Finally, people at the White House actually completed the second half of the seder! This is horrifying! It’s just not done! The only saving grace was that the president and his guests used the famous Maxwell House haggadahs, which were revised in 2011. Thankfully, the new haggadahs include preprinted food and wine stains.

Trudi York Gardner lives in Benicia and can be reached at [email protected] or via her blog, www.tygerpen.wordpress.com.