Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Questions and apples

So the seder is done, yom tov is over, and now we're entering the blissful time of chol hamo'ed (the intermediary days).  For the first time ever, we had a family-only seder this year.  It was quiet and went by quickly, with a lot of focus on our children and their questions.  They were rewarded with walnuts for each one they asked.  I hope that they will always remain curious and eager to learn more.

Last week I came home with three large bags of apples but, with guests in the house all week, somehow ran out before I could make haroset and had to borrow apples from my neighbor.  Haroset symbolizes the adobe-like mixture that our ancestors used to make bricks while slaves in Egypt.  I chopped the apples into long, thin pieces that looked like straw.  Chopped dates with a bit of date syrup remind me of the dark, clay mud and even finer chopped walnuts are like gravel and sand.  I've mixed concrete before and couldn't make haroset without these key ingredients.  A splash of wine is for the blood and sweat that went into the work and then I leave it in a quiet corner of the counter (not in the refrigerator) all day to wait patiently for deliverance...to the dining room table.

The first of four cups at our seder was poured from a fairly skunky bottle of bootleg made in an amateur botique winery nearby.  It's still good enough for cooking wine, and debatabley better than the cough syrup known as Maneschewitz, but before the next round was poured we opened a new bottle.  Carmel has a new Private Collection line, and the Shiraz (2009) was on sale for Pesach.  This is a very fruity and fragrant, non-mevushal wine with an alchohol content of 13.5%.  Kosher Israeli wines are moving up in the global wine industry, thanks to bottles like these.

Puriel puts the afikomen (half of the middle matzah, which is saved and eaten at the end of our meal) over his shoulder and steps outside.  He comes right back in and we ask, "Who are you?"

"I'm the children of Israel," he answers with a big grin.

"Where are you coming from?" we wonder.

"From Egypt," he says, suddenly serious.

"Where are you going to?" we press for more details.

"To the land of Israel!" he declares proudly.

We are proud to be in the land of Israel.  After so many years of exile, may G-d answer the prayers from last night's seder, sung with hope by our people all around the world: "Next year in Jerusalem!"