Sunday, April 27, 2008
Turning the Tables for Two: A Passover Story
Passover just ended--and this feels like liberation! We're now enveloped in the warm fuzzies of saying farewell to the many friends and renewed acquaintences we've enjoyed in this ten days at our Passover retreat.
I don't have much time now, as soon we'll go downstairs for the chumetz pizza and beer bash that concludes our holiday-- but I want to tell you about the Cohens. Mr. and Mrs. Cohen are an elderly couple, about four-feet-ten, he with a wisps of white hair and matching snowy beard, and she with a variety of brown sheitls. We saw them the first night at their table for two, conspicuous among the round tables for ten, and rectangles of gathered families of 20. The only little table for two--the couple hobbled to their seats, at first looking to us a bit pitiful, all alone. They chatted with each other a bit, but mostly sat quietly, dignified, munching their matza, sipping their wine, eating the courses we were all served, just the two of them, the miniature old couple that seemed so sweet and yet so apart.
Over the course of our ten days together, Mr. and Mrs. Cohen attended the lectures my husband and I gave to the crowd. They spoke in their thick European accents to our children. They got to know others and soon we saw them seated for meals, animatedly chatting, at a table of ten elders, the table for two gone. Mrs. Cohen approached me to comment approvingly after my lectures; she sat down after lunch at our table one time to say how she enjoyed watching our family so attentive and loving toward my father-in-law, 82, with us for the holiday from Jerusalem.
I now complete this post at home. By the end of our ten days at the Passover hotel, the Cohens were thoroughly embraced by most everyone. At our final night of celebration, eating our just-prepared gourmet pizza and pretzels with beer, the little couple were in demand for photos, and happy to oblige. They seemed to be beaming, and freely shared how delighted they were to have enjoyed this time with such a congenial and warm group.
Passover at a hotel may seem like an indulgence, but it offers many benefits beyond just avoiding the chores of cleaning and preparing. Families unite from around the globe, as ours did, and together, the joyous assemblage of so many people realizing the specialness of this time creates a camaraderie and closeness difficult to duplicate. As the days dwindle, the desire to stay, to dwell in this pocket of unreality, increases. Here are people not just gathered for a good time, but to observe God's rules for these elevated days.
And then, after the pizza and the packing, the taxis line up for the parade to the airport and the matzah crumbs, photos and fables are all that remain. Perhaps we'll see Mr. and Mrs. Cohen next year in Jerusalem. If not there, at the same hotel at our table for lunch would be just fine.