Sunday, April 19, 2009

derekh shiksa: part one

To kvetch or not to kvetch
That will never be my option

I admit to being one of those ethnically Christian gals who professed a love of matza.  And while I'm being honest here, I'll also confess to being so excited for Pesach that I couldn't even wait until Passover to open the Kosher for Passover Cheerios.  I've since learned the dread, not exuberance, is a more common sentiment among those observant. 

The night before the holiday began, a time when you're supposed to be rooting out those last morsels of chametz with a feather and a candle, I was watching the Daily Show and happily chomping on my first bowl of kosher cereal.  So what if it had the texture of corrugated cardboard and flavor of a manilla folder, my kitchen was already sterile enough for surgery, let holidays begin!

But after 8 days of chametzlessness, I realize I should have been more specific.

I love matza when it's 3am, I've 2 or 3 too many scotches and only after I've eating everything else not nailed down in my beau's kitchen.   

But before you pleasejudge yourself away, remember it was my first attempt to go unleavened.  This was my first Passover.  I may be, at least physically and legally an adult, but in all things Jewish, I am like an adult kindegartener.  There is a joy in starting from scratch, make no mistake.  Reading, writing, and speaking a new language, especially such a bitchy one like Hebrew, is full of small triumphs.  A holiday is still exciting for me.

One last goyish admission, I tried to make a matza bread house, or tenement I called it.  I learned, something everyone else figured out pre- bat mitzvah, matza is not a structurally sound building material.

In the end, I was successful in my matzaness, but now slightly bloated and not quite as psyched for the next 15th of Nissan, a few miscellaneous thoughts.

1. I understand the symbolism of eating matza.  It's a very tactile way of connecting with history.  It's the tradition, so who I am to argue with 2,000 plus years of it.  However, and I know this from many many years of expensive Upper East therapy, a traumatic event in childhood is often repeated throughout the course of one's life.  As a gentleman pointed out at my first night seder, one who has an especially strong disdain for the holiday, "We made the bread correctly.  We were waiting for it to rise!!!"  Again, I understand Passover won't change but aren't we retraumatizing ourselves?

2. I will never be able to genuinely kvetch.  This is the derekh shiksa, or way of the ethnic Christian, one who chooses a Jewish life.  Choosing is a powerful and empowering thing, but it doesn't leave much room for complaining.  But I think I've found a loophole: to kvetch about not being able to kvetch.

3. The most important realization: The seder I attended this year was hosted by an obviously brilliant, genuinely funny and hugely gracious gay couple in New Haven.  It may be the first positive thing that has ever happened to me in Connecticut.  I was nervous, mostly because of my ineptitude even after 1 1/2 of study, but also because the feast was to be vegan.  What would we eat?  With no meat, dairy, eggs or fish, I imagined noshing on tinfoil, parsley and charoset.  

The meal turned out to be excellent- the traditional lamb shank bone on the seder plate replaced by a flower, a special kiddie Haggadah for me and showtunes that marvelously accommodated the word, Halachic.  It was like no other seder I had ever attended. I was thrilled to be included at the "big kids" table.   

But more, as I sat, laughing, reclining, retelling the story of Exodus with all these folks; one, a molecular biologist, atheist and Sondheim lover, his polyglot gourmet chef partner, who let me light the special holiday candlesticks, the Rav Tastic, a writer, bgirl, my Hebrew teacher and friend, who stood up on her chair to deliver part of the four questions and the very drunk woman sat across from me, who confided with a wink in her voice, "I just don't get on with non-Jewish women, do you know what I mean?"
that there are a lot of ways to be Jewish.  

And that I will find my own way.