In the month of Adar we all make merry, in the month of Nisan it's quite contrary: How are we to get through the pharaonic seder? Never were there such bad nights in Israel as this night, when even "warm families" tend to cool down. If the United Nations were to conduct its happiness check at this time of the year, Israel would plummet to 100th place, if not lower.
Spring has not come, nor Pesach neither - despite what the old children's song promises us - and merrymaking gives way to sudden concern for hungry children: For just NIS 10 we can make our bad conscience skedaddle. Every year the same stew of compassion, pity and mercy is cooked up, in the hope that it is free of hametz. To the life of this nation, how good that it is so good! All for all or none for one.
How is this night different? And how, it's different, because on all other nights a child can go hungry, but on this night it's a no-no. This evening, for example, the seventh day of Pesach, there is no longer "all who are hungry" or "all who are in need" - they have all disappeared as if by Moses' magic wand.
But it's not the poor who are the source of the discomfiture, not really. It starts to gnaw at us with those panic-inducing phone calls. If I hear the question "Where are you for the seder?" one more time, I will not take it lying down; if I hear "Who's going to be at your seder?" one more time, I will go back to Sinai, ignoring the travel alerts and fleeing the holiday-eve terror. After all, the answers to those questions interest the askers about as much as the afikoman of yesteryear. And anyway, what business is it of theirs?
Many are discombobulated by the Haggadah itself. That's perfectly understandable: Alongside a few fine verses, we are confronted with impenetrable, not to say foolish, words. The wise son isn't really all that wise, more of a wise guy. And the wicked one is actually pretty wise, if you think about it. On top of that, some of the passages are really frightening, especially for children who are liable to panic and lose their appetite.
That is why I once customarily invited an Arab friend to the seder, and he was the one who read "Pour your wrath upon the nations ... Pursue them from under the heavens of the Lord." So he, the friend, with his own hands would pour the anger on himself - and our hands would not have to do it. This friend, however, has died in the meantime, so this time I had one of the kids utter the words, and in that way softened the message a little.
Another problem is the holiday meal. How can one eat a whole meal that has not come off the barbecue, especially when the table is replete with disgusting food like gefilte fish in slimy sauce, which is exceeded in its repulsiveness only by Ashkenazi jellied cow's foot, trembling with surplus cellulite? Repeat after me, three times: "Ugh."
But the main trouble is with the seder guests. Bearing our pots have we come, from every corner of the land, bringing a harvest of cooking. The media report serious cases of whole families collapsing and of mental breakdowns, and that means for the rest of their lives. On-call doctors and specialists in ER diagnose the seder-eve syndrome as "aunt anxiety." It never fails, but some legendary aunt pops up, whose big mouth everyone is afraid of, not least because it sprays bits of matza and bitter herbs, and she is amazed at our early old-age and our late bachelorhood. Why invite her at all, Auntie Bluma, Fruma or Flora?
In recent years, sensitivity has increased regarding whose with whom we sit at the seder table. This is an odd development. After all, we have become accustomed to the permanent presence of Netanyahu and Barak, Lieberman and Yishai in our living rooms - so what's with this selectivity? Is it just the aunt who nauseates you?
We have got used to living in the house of "Big Brother," with particularly repulsive characters - and you have a problem with Flora? I have an original suggestion for you: Why not create a new reality program for us, from life, which will broadcast live the seder of a typical family? We shall sit on that night, too, watching and text-messaging our votes. We will thereupon discover that the unbearables are the big winners, and Auntie Fruma will go home with a million shekels.
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