Monday, March 29, 2010

Being Jewish, Sung to the Tune of Anything Disney

Catholic guilt, heavy though it might be, finds a run for its money in its Abrahamic counterpart, Jewish guilt. After all, Catholics get to repent once a week; we only get one day a year to 'fess up.

Every year, I think about not giving up bread & all things leavened for Passover. I do this primarily because every year, I try to give up the requisite grain products (beer & bagels, how I miss thee) & fail miserably - & then just end up feeling guilty. I really thought this year might be the year I didn't bother trying... but the guilt of that consumed me, too, - before the holiday even began! So here I am swearing off my fridgeful of Lean Cuisine pizzas & Yuengling Lights for a solid eight days.

My friend Joanna, who's from the DC area, kindly invited three wayward friends & I to her home for First Night Seder, where we joined more than a dozen other guests. It was a great evening (albeit a five-hour one!), & I'm consistently thankful to have such great friends whose families are willing to take me in for holidays & general hospitality. A few notes, however, on Pesach bizarreness:
  • I seriously question any fish that comes in the shape of a Jell-O mold. It is for this reason (& definitely not because I hate all fish...) that I skipped tonight's gefilte fish dish, though @missallisong claims it was the most delicious she's ever had.

  • Matzah ball soup still tastes like stomach acid. Sorry, Mom. This year I didn't even bother.

  • Many of this evening's add-on songs were to the tune of Disney songs & the theme from "Gilligan's Island," mostly just because Joanna was put in charge of the music & is pretty effing quirky. We dared attempt to sing the first of the Four Questions to the tune of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," which, even if you know nothing of Passover, is just as difficult as it sounds. You try fitting the syllables of the Hebrew "Ma nishtana ha'laila hazeh mi'kol haleilot?" into the right places of Mary Poppins' most famous made-up word. One of the verses to "A Whole New World" - sung, shockingly, to the tune of "A Whole New World" - went like this:
    A whole new world...
    Where we won’t live in slavery.
    No one to tell us no,
    The Jews can’t go,

    Or say we’re only dreaming.
    Yeah. Seriously. I hope no one expected me to keep a straight face. Can I get a magic carpet, too, please?

  • It's sort of unclear why Jews feel they need to eat jelly candies at Pesach, as there are plenty of wheat-free desserts that are much, much tastier & less garishly colored, yet every Seder seems to boast at least one plateful of neon jelly slices. Joanna & I love them, but we appear to be in the minority - when I bought them at the Capitol Hill candy store a few weeks ago, my coworkers were baffled: "Why would you buy gross Passover candy when it's not Passover?!"

  • The afikomen is a piece of matzah hidden someplace in the home for the children to search for at the end of the Seder. Though no one in the room was younger than 21, nine of us were tasked with scouring the house. At what age are we allowed to get out of this game?! There's nothing more awkward than opening drawers & closets in a stranger's home as you try to find a piece of unleavened bread ultimately hidden inside a Grecian urn or something. Though I was not the winner of said afikomen hunt, all hunters scored $5 Starbucks giftcards to indulge in our very unchildlike caffeine addictions.

  • The evening ended with an easy-listening round of "Make Those Waters Part" by Doug Mishkin, who's basically a Jewish James Taylor.
Luckily, this holiday also requires that we drink four glasses of wine. Like, requires it. And unlike giving up grain, that's a requirement I'm happily able to fulfill.

It's (glorious) nights like this that I have to wonder what Judaism looks like to non-Jews...
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