If we were in chutz l'aretz right now, we'd be in the middle of our second seder.
But the one we had last night was quite enjoyable. David and I had planned to have a quiet seder with just the two of us, and several books of commentaries to aid in our enjoyment and understanding. As it turned out, our friend who just had her baby a couple of weeks ago joined us. It was kind of a strange seder - she came over with a red and runny nose from allergies (David and I have been taking allergy medicine for weeks; everyone's sneezing and blowing their nose around here) and I gave her a Benedryl. Duh! It wasn't the smartest thing to do. She had the first cup of wine and was out for the count! While she snoozed on the couch I got to hold and rock and walk the baby, which was an unexpected reward for the evening. She's such a cuddly little sweetie. Nathan's had to endure my repeated pleas this past month to find a nice, Jewish girl already and give me some Jewish grandchildren (and, of course, move back here to Israel to do it). He tends to change the subject a lot.
Anyway, David had a very interesting haggadah with some great commentary and we learned a lot of interesting stuff. It's the first time we had the seder at home in several years so I got to unpack all my stuff. We have about 10 boxes of Pesach dishes, serving pieces, etc. so opening everything up after a year is like getting new presents. We have an excess of everything because in St. Louis we used to have big sedarim. Someday we'll have a bigger house so we can have more space to store our things and more room to entertain.
After the seder I went across the street to let Rusty out. He's Miryam and Shaya's 150 pound dog. When we walked over, we could hear singing from open windows on the street. I absolutely love living on a street in a community in a country where practically everyone is celebrating the exact same thing you are. Supposedly 85% of Israelis profess to having a Pesach seder whether they're religious or not. This re-telling of our story year after year for three thousand years is a miracle in itself. As slaves under the ruthless ruler of the biggest empire of all time, our lives and our futures were utterly hopeless - and yet Hashem redeemed and took us out of slavery to bring us to a land "flowing with milk and honey." Every year the story has more meaning for me. So many times in my life I've been off-course, either floundering or just plain headed in the wrong direction, and He's taken me by the hand and shown me a better way.
Sara Yocheved Rigler wrote an excellent piece in this week's Binah magazine. She said that as a nation and a people things are looking pretty hopeless for us right now: the constant bombardment of kassem rockets into Sderot and southern Israel that are maiming and killing, the tragic loss of lives like the yeshiva boys in Mercaz HaRav, the rampant anti-Semitism all over the world, the assimilation that's eating away at our numbers as well as the number of teenagers "off the derech" (path of Torah) and young singles who can't find their mates, our government's ineptness, and worse of all, the threat of physical annihilation by Iran. Her message was to always remember that even when the situation seems hopeless, we have to remember yitzias Mitzraim, the redemption from Egypt, and know that all is in Hashem's hands. Pretty powerful stuff.
I had a lot of fun the past couple of weeks cleaning for Pesach in between working at my new job. I really enjoy working at my new job. Tefilla, the director, wants me full time after Pesach but I told her I was only interested in three days a week. I might work four; David wants me to work as much as I can because we tend to overspend our budget. I'm a little curious how Tefilla plans to work this out. There's already four people and four desks (the fourth person shares an office with Tefilla), so I don't know where I'd work, but Tefilla was adamant that she would work it out. I suspect she's going to try to talk me into some fundraising, and I absolutely don't want to do that. Give me computer work, even if it's inputting donations in the database, and I'll be happy, but I HATE asking people for money.
So I worked five days the first week, and last week just Sunday and Monday so I could finish cleaning and start cooking. All the cleaning was finished by Tuesday night, including covering all the counter tops and tables - first time I've ever been able to finish so early. I didn't get to do a lot of spring cleaning which I usually do; things like washing the windows and cleaning out drawers, but you have to remember this is a tiny house and we don't have kids here so I got done what I needed to. Plus I helped our friend who just had the baby. I did all her Pesach grocery shopping for her and also helped in her kitchen a little. Thank G-d she had some teenage girls who cleaned her frig and did some other cleaning for her.
It was really fun the last few days before the holiday started. Everywhere on the yishuv were people outside cleaning windows and vacuuming out cars and kids scrubbing lawn furniture or toys. I think they actually emptied out the dumpsters all over the yishuv every single day. First I'd see them overflowing and an hour later they'd be empty again.
David took off all of Chol Hamoed. He really needs this vacation. The only bad thing is - EVERYONE takes off this week, so going anywhere will be very crowded. He basically just wants to veg out in his computer/Beit Medrash room, but we'll do some sightseeing. And one night we'll have a BBQ with Shaya and Miryam; we have some rib steaks in the freezer that are calling our names.
Today we had the last seuda (festive meal) with Penina and Pinchus and their kids. Miryam and Shaya were already there; they'd walked down for the seder the night before and spent the night. After lunch we women played mah jongg on our new 2008 cards. Kind of interesting how we got our cards. We ordered them back in January by sending our checks to Shifra in St. Louis. She added them to the orders from my old mahj group. The cards arrived in St. Louis in the mail about three weeks ago. It turned out that Avi from Nefesh B'Nefesh was in St. Louis to speak to prospective olim, and he stayed at Shifra and Albert's house. It was someone who had lived around the corner from us in Ramat Beit Shemesh, so Shifra gave the cards to Avi to bring to Israel. David had the great idea to ask Avi to take them work and give them to Casriel, another guy who works there who lives on our yishuv. And Casriel delivered them to my door. Is it a small world or what? We're hoping to play over Chol Hamoed as well.
David went to bed half an hour ago, and my mind is kind of mushy by now (it's almost midnight). Later, friends!