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Lori L. Duvall: Passover Seder is worth the effort

“This is the last Passover,” I groused, for the umpteenth time. “It’s too much work.”

I was tired, aggravated and far from finished with holiday preparations. I had to rush out for horseradish root, which I had somehow forgotten, and a lamb shank, which I had been unable to find.

In my haste to get in and out at the store, I cut the wheel when I saw a parking space being vacated and – bang! – clipped a sign base, causing the sign to bounce off my vehicle and leave a decent-sized ding. I ran my finger along it and got a paint sliver.

To add insult to injury (literally) there was no horseradish root. No lamb shank, either, but I bought a shoulder blade that I trimmed and passed off as a shank bone.

The Passover holiday is a big deal, in much the same way Easter is for Christians. I always associate the two, since Passover occurs just before Easter. Jesus went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, and the Last Supper was thought to be a Seder, the ritual meal eaten to celebrate the Jews’ freedom from slavery.

Growing up, the Seders were huge celebrations. There could be 20-plus people attending, because all guests are welcome: “Let all who are hungry enter and eat thereof.” Haggadahs, booklets that are the blueprint for the Seder, are distributed and the ritual begins. Prayers are said, questions are asked, a story is told and wine is drunk. Occasionally, a lot of wine. I recall my Dad once knocking a lit candle into a water pitcher reaching for the wine decanter. He fished it out, shushing the youngsters and avoiding my mother’s eyes, yarmulke askew on his head and all of us kids laughing.

The Seder is long. Really long. During the first part, there’s nothing to eat except some parsley and hard-boiled eggs in salt water. Mm. There’s a “mortar” made of chopped apples and walnuts, which with wine and honey mixed in is actually not bad. This is eaten on matzo, the unleavened bread that symbolizes the haste with which the Jews departed Egypt, not having time to let the dough rise. It’s really a giant cracker, and the driest thing I’ve ever eaten.

Some of those Seders were so long, my cousins and I would start eyeing the dogs.

The preparations for Passover are arduous. Traditionally, it’s a time for spring cleaning, and that alone is a major undertaking. Next there’s shopping, since many of the things needed aren’t normally on one’s list – matzo meal, gefilte fish. Then putting together a Seder plate, which holds the symbolic foods of the holiday – eggs for life, salt water for tears and much more. I was roasting an egg under the broiler when I got distracted. The egg exploded like a gunshot and rained shell fragments, which I eventually gathered and dumped on the Seder plate next to the faux shank bone.

Just before my company arrived, I cracked a tooth eating hard candy and it exploded in much the same fashion as the egg. I would see the dentist the next day.

That night, as we sat around the table after the Seder, I looked at my guests. My brother and his family, my son, my niece and her children, my partner and his sister-in-law. The guest list may change, but never how I feel about them. I felt guilty about complaining. We’ll have a Seder next year. Maybe not in Jerusalem, like the Haggadah suggests, but if we could get to Boca I’d settle for that.