First Two Days of Pesach

In case you were curious, “paschal” is indeed etymologically linked to “pesach,” i.e., Passover:

paschal (adj.)  early 15c., “of or pertaining to Easter,” from Old French paschal (12c.) and directly from Late Latin paschalis, from pascha “Passover, Easter,” from Greek pascha “Passover,” from Aramaic (Semitic) pasha “pass over,” corresponding to Hebrew pesah, from pasah “he passed over.” (see Passover). Pasche was an early Middle English term for “Easter” (see Easter).

Progress!  The carpets are being cleaned as I type, I’ve vacuumed my car, my husband and I have done most of the Pesach shopping, the tax info is ready for tomorrow’s meeting with the accountant, the stove will be repaired tomorrow, my husband is duly practicing his 2nd day Torah reading and has finalized the menu for the Seder (same for Friday and Saturday) to be prepared here and transported to the Greenwald homestead in Merion, and finishing the kitchen prep, even cleaning the refrigerator looks to be a tad easier than usual.

In case you haven’t guessed, I have mixed feelings about Passover/Pesach.  Once the holiday starts, I’m fine.  My husband and I totally share getting ready, and the tasks involved with getting ready could be a lot more onerous – for example, my mother, as a small child, had to stay up very late chopping fish to help her mother make gefilte fish for all the aunts, uncles, and cousins.  And there are always foods we could, but don’t, eat at other times during the year.  And, if we wanted to, we could have or find a big Seder instead of our lightly-populated ones.  But that wouldn’t banish my sense of being surrounded by the ghosts of a lost past.

From 2016, lightly edited, with 2003 nested therein:

I realize you are more likely to be recovering from the sedarim, either from preparation or overindulging, this Saturday and Sunday morning.  Are you really interested in a discourse on the Torah readings …?  Me neither.  But here’s my handy-dandy crib sheet:

March 31, 1st day Pesach Exodus 12:21-51

The first Passover, the Exodus, and laws for future Passovers (duh).

Numbers 28:16-25

The Passover sacrifice (also duh).

Joshua 5:2-6:1, 27

[or 3:5-7; 5:2–6:1, 27] Circumcision of the males born in the wilderness.

April 1, 2nd day Pesach Leviticus 22:26-23:44

The holidays (“set times”).

Numbers 28:16-25

Same as the first day.

II Kings 23:1-25

or 23:1-9, 21-25] King Josiah’s religious revival.

I wrote this in 2003:

“… The seder provokes reminiscing as effectively as Proust’s madeleine.  Some of my own memories:  the 1959 seder that was cancelled because I came down with scarlet fever that afternoon.  1972, subjecting my then-college classmate (future husband) Rich to the scrutiny of 21 of my relatives (my four little cousins, aged 1 to 5, provided a bit of welcome distraction).  1989: passing on the Ma Nishtana baton to daughter Roz (I transliterated it for her) after decades of my being the youngest at the table, along with the strangeness of a seder without my father.  And then there are the treasured objects: Great-uncle Mitchell’s wine glass, the coin silver spoons and Cup of Elijah from Poland, the haggadah with my brother’s adolescent smart alecky scribblings in it.  How appropriate this all occurs at a season when we celebrate life and renewal.”

That was 13 (now 15) years ago.  I have other memories from childhood Passovers that are as clear, like the year I put together a little model of a seder table with 18 place settings (that year’s attendance) that included 18 little aluminum foil kiddush cups.  Or the year I got the mumps after the seder but during the holiday.  But the last 13 years are more of a blur as I look back.  I remember enlarging the pages of the haggadah so my mother could follow along.  I remember the year she was in Lankenau or rehab and we transmitted the seder to her by phone until she dozed off.  As years went by, my mother became increasingly confused about the calendar and what had happened to whom when, often conflating incidents.  One manifestation was her anxiety about the seder, starting months ahead of time: Who’s doing what?  Was there anything she needed to do?  What about the (fill in the blank)?  And our responses were 1) Everything is or will be taken care of and 2) The seder isn’t for another 8 months anyway.  But one thing she never became befuddled about was who we were, and for that I am grateful.

I wish you all a “zissun Pesach” (sweet Passover) and Shabbat Shalom.



This is also from 2003/2016, passed along in 2003 by Arlene M-S:

Alert: New Psychiatric Disorder added to DSM-IV-R

PPCD: Pre-Pesach Cleaning Disorder This is a recently discovered disorder, recognized as a seasonal disorder, usually appearing in early spring. It is characterized by obsessive thinking about cleanliness, far out of normal proportions. It is distinguished from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder 300.3 by several symptoms:

  • Obsessive focusing on small particles of food throughout the house, to the extent of climbing onto bookshelves and behind toilets to ferret out particles smaller than the eye can see. Compulsive washing of objects that are ostensibly clean (e.g., one Patient was found putting her children’s Legos into a sock bag and washing them. This was discovered by a disturbed neighbor who couldn’t figure out what could possibly be banging so loudly and incessantly in the dryer. The patient, when confronted said, “Well, what did you expect– for me to put them in the toy box wet!”)
  • Incessant moving of common objects from their normal places (e.g., dishes, silverware, etc. are wrapped up and/or banished from their normal shelves and drawers.)
  • Talking with friends and acquaintances about topics formerly of no interest (e.g., effectiveness of different oven cleaners, location of most pungent horseradish.)

This disorder seems to occur in a social context. Frequently, groups of women experience PPCD simultaneously.

Presumptive symptoms: Spring time frame. Patient is a woman, although entire households can be affected. Patient reports insomnia. Patient has red hands. Patient has a heavy odor of cleaning substances. Patient does not have time to talk about it.

Treatment: This disorder has a guarded prognosis. Although patients uniformly recover within several weeks, they tend to relapse around the same time each year.*

*There are reports of cessation of symptoms if they are taken away to a hotel for a week each year.


tph easter bunny at the seder


Some people enjoy a really, really, long seder, far into the night, with lots of people, singing, and discussion. Others just want a skeletal outline and the meal, whence the two-minute Haggadah below. There’s a 10-minute version if you want it short but kosher i.e., including everything that must be included.

The Two-Minute Haggadah – A Passover service for the impatient.

By Michael Rubiner (2006)

tph seder woodcut

Opening prayers:
Thanks, God, for creating wine. (Drink wine.)
Thanks for creating produce. (Eat parsley.)
Overview: Once we were slaves in Egypt. Now we’re free. That’s why we’re doing this.

Four questions:
1. What’s up with the matzoh?
2. What’s the deal with horseradish?
3. What’s with the dipping of the herbs?
4. What’s this whole slouching at the table business?

1. When we left Egypt, we were in a hurry. There was no time for making decent bread.
2. Life was bitter, like horseradish.
3. It’s called symbolism.
4. Free people get to slouch.

A funny story: Once, these five rabbis talked all night, then it was morning. (Heat soup now.)

The four kinds of children and how to deal with them:
Wise child—explain Passover.
Simple child—explain Passover slowly.
Silent child—explain Passover loudly.
Wicked child—browbeat in front of the relatives.

Speaking of children: We hid some matzoh. Whoever finds it gets five bucks.

The story of Passover: It’s a long time ago. We’re slaves in Egypt. Pharaoh is a nightmare. We cry out for help. God brings plagues upon the Egyptians. We escape, bake some matzoh. God parts the Red Sea. We make it through; the Egyptians aren’t so lucky. We wander 40 years in the desert, eat manna, get the Torah, wind up in Israel, get a new temple, enjoy several years without being persecuted again. (Let brisket cool now.)

The 10 Plagues: Blood, Frogs, Lice—you name it.

The singing of “Dayenu”:
If God had gotten us out of Egypt and not punished our enemies, it would’ve been enough. If he’d punished our enemies and not parted the Red Sea, it would’ve been enough.
If he’d parted the Red Sea— (Remove gefilte fish from refrigerator now.)
Eat matzoh. Drink more wine. Slouch.
Thanks again, God, for everything.

Seder pickup lines: (selected)

  • Let’s make this night really different from all others nights
  • What’s a girl like you doing at a seder like this?
  • If 600,000 people can get taken out, one more couldn’t hurt
  • I hear that horseradish is an aphrodisiac
  • Did that just say we were in bondage?
  • I could never Pass you Over…
  • We were strangers…. emphasis on “were”
  • I’m going to have to search you for chometz
  • How’s about we go re-live the “Darkness” plague up in my room.
  • I’m like one of the four sons; let me show you how wicked I can be.


Hmmm…Next year – Zombie or Hogwarts?

 tph 10-quirky-passover-haggadot-IIHIH





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