April 2015 has been on my mind for a while. Since last September, to be exact, when I began counting the weeks to estimate a due date for my first child.
For the past several months,I have been reading the books, cleaning the house, painting the room, purchasing the gear, making checklists at work, all in anticipation for this impending April deadline. It wasn’t until last week as I was strolling through the grocery store past the matzah display that I realized I had left something off the to-do list: Passover.
As I cracked open one of those tiny bottles of Kedem grape juice (hey, it’s almost a satisfying treat after a long, dry, 8 months), I thought about our annual seder in Jackson, Mississippi, that I’ve come to love so much.
Every year, my husband and I host thirty-plus people, packed in our small home. It’s a special time of sharing my favorite traditions, enjoying the meal I spent two days preparing using old family recipes, sharing my Jewish culture with my mostly non-Jewish friends.
But this year… could we pull it off?
Three years ago my husband and I decided to forego hosting the event, seeing as it was so close to our wedding, but this year I’m feeling like it needs to be a priority. I’ve been getting a lot of great advice about parenthood, but one thing I can’t seem to swallow is when experienced parents give me that stern warning about how my life will never be the same. I really like the way life has been going so far; do I really have to give it all up? Thinking about Passover, and other Jewish holidays , I’m reminded that they serve as important touchstones throughout the year and how ritual and tradition helps focus and redirect a sometimes challenging or overwhelming time in our lives. They aren’t something having a child will take away – they are something I’ll want to share with the new addition to our family.
And so, seder is a go!
Sure, there’s going to be a third person living in my house soon, but right now it’s time to make the charoset. Sure, I’ve got to finish my spring semester assignments before I go into labor, but this is the time to read the story of Exodus in funny voices with my favorite friends. Sure, I’ve got piles of baby clothes to wash, but this is time to search for the afikomen (bonus if someone finds tiny socks during the process!).
I’ve tried to soften my stubborn habits during this pregnancy and as I entered my third trimester I began accepting my limitations. My body is working on a major project that needs special care and attention. But on the days when my mind starts racing about all the things I can’t do or the things that are about to change, I find comfort in the yearly traditions that won’t change. I don’t have to host the seder, but this year part of me really needs to. The Kedem grape juice doesn’t quite hit the spot as much as its Manischewitz cousin, but in the grocery aisle that day, the sugar provided just enough energy to throw some matzah in my cart and commit to making this a very pregnant Passover to remember, with maybe a few extra helpings of “matzah crack” for the mom to be!
The tension in the air is palpable as we prepare for today’s tip-off at the Manischewitz Arena. Mensch Madness Game 4 is going to involve some serious trash-talking!
Today’s match-up will pit a Serpent and a Donkey against one another, and in a fascinating twist, both of these animals are able to speak (no, the donkey is not related to Eddie Murphy’s character in Shrek)!
Also, it looks like the trash talking is on and off the court today, folks. As the snake came out for his pre-game warm-up, he encountered two fans who seemed to be drunk. One of them (due to privacy concerns, he will be referred to only by his first name, Adam) was shouting about some piece of fruit, and Adam’s companion, Eve, was yelling that the Serpent was a lying fraud. Based on this serious allegation, a test was administered on the Serpent for performance-enhancing drugs, but it came back negative. Adam and Eve were escorted out by security, and told they could never return – ever.
While the players wrapped their warm-ups, a man named Balaam gave a pretty poor rendition of the national anthem. He stumbled over the words, and some said that was because he was trying to sing about the “home of the cowardly” instead of “home of the brave.” Apparently the folks operating the sound system edited his words in real time.
As the game began, the Serpent immediately went on an 18-4 run. His ability to walk on two legs — that’s right, sports fans, a two-legged snake! — was immensely helpful, and the donkey just couldn’t hang with him as she tried to dribble with one of her four legs. Soon, the Donkey was called for travelling. She got in an argument with the ref. The Serpent ran over, demanding that the Donkey be called for a technical foul. Sure enough, the ref blew his whistle and made the call. Then Serpent began dancing around, taunting Donkey, trash-talking her and telling her to break another rule if she really wanted to win the game…
This would prove to be a turning point.
A voice on the loud-speaker boomed: “Serpent, because you have enticed the referee to make this excessive call and continue coaxing Donkey to break the rules, you will no longer be able to prance around the court on two legs. You will henceforth be required to attempt mid-range jump shots while slithering around on your belly.”
We searched the entire NCAA rulebook, and we found no such provision, but that voice over the loudspeaker was pretty powerful. And so, just like that, the Serpent’s two-leg advantage slithered away.
Donkey took a massive lead, as the Serpent’s ability to play defense was almost completely eliminated. It was so bad that a benchwarmer named “Angel” was summoned to assist the serpent on defense. What was strange is that none of the fans could see this Angel character. His clothing blended in with the court. Only the Donkey could see him. When she started dribbling frantically in circles to try and avoid Angel’s terrific defense, the fans thought she was just wasting time and milking the lead.
Anthem-garbling Balaam was incredibly upset, and threw his hot dog at the Donkey. Next came the Dippin’ Dots. Finally, after being pelted with an entire box of nachos, Donkey couldn’t take it anymore.
She yelled, “What have I done to you that you’ve launched these food items at me three times? This ‘Angel’ guy was going to confront you due to your horrendous national anthem rendition, but because I gave him the opportunity to play defense against me, I saved you from that thoroughly unpleasant interaction! And this is the thanks I get?!”
Balaam, like Adam and Eve before him, was escorted out and banned for life from Manischewitz Arena. As the game drew to a close, the donkey coasted to a victory over the helpless serpent, who spent most of his time slithering around the three-point arc, air-balling desperation attempts from downtown. The final score was 83-68.
Heading into this match-up, all bets are on the powerful hunk of animated mud, known as the Golem, created by Rabbi Judah Loeb of Prague to protect the community against pogroms in the sixteenth century. Clocking in at over 6 feet tall, with a whole lotta muscle, this creature is a force of nature when it comes to basketball. The underdog in this match is the “Big Fish” (sometimes referred to as a whale or “great fish”—nicknames are common in this game, sports fans) that appeared in the story of Jonah and swallows him whole. No match in strength to the Golem, the fish will have to swim to the top with agility and strategy. Will he be able to do it?
Mensch Madness Game 3 gets started in a BIG way!
Though the Golem is unmatched in strength, his weakness lies in his lack of clear strategy. Moving without thinking through the consequences, he leaves himself wide open, and the Big Fish easily steals the ball! That creature from the deep has the incredible ability to anticipate moves before they happen— he seems to be exactly in the right place at the right time to steal the ball from the Golem.
Not outplayed yet, the Golem goes back to his basics. He deals struggles in the world in one solid way: he faces them aggressively and openly. Once the fish steals the ball and swims to the other side of the court, the Golem doesn’t take time to re-group and work through his strategy. He attacks with full force, expelling a lot of energy and putting himself in a very vulnerable place. He lunges for the ball and misses by a few inches and the fish ducks back. This fish is practiced in the game of waiting. The fish sat for three days and three nights with Jonah kicking around his belly. He can handle some patience on the court!
Big Fish represents a very different method of dealing with struggles in the world: he takes some time for introspection, working through the best possible approaches and consequences before acting. Knowing the Golem’s weaknesses and brute strength, the fish never tries to fight for the ball but instead waits for a moment the Golem is lacking in defense.
As the massive fish swims across the court in a few sluggish movements, stopping to consider the consequences, the Golem easily catches up and steals the ball while the fish is deep in thought. The Golem runs back across the court and dunks the ball. It looks like the game is over when suddenly…
Oh, man! What a move!
After days of strategizing before the game, looks like the fish discovered the Golem’s biggest flaw: the word Emet (“truth”) written on the Golem’s head. This word, composed of the Hebrew letters aleph, mem, tav symbolizes the life of the Golem, given to him by God. With the flap of a flipper, the fish reaches over and covers the aleph, leaving the letters mem and tav, or the Hebrew word met (“death”). And the Golem is down for the count!
Don’t worry, Golem fans. His coach’ll have him back up and lurching soon. But this game is over!
With drastically different strengths, both players gave this game their best. In the end, the fish’s strategy for change making is more sustainable. Big Fish looks at the big picture, and earns a spot in the next round!