Interestingly enough the word "Seder" means Order.
To get to the point where you have Order for the Seder you have about 4 weeks to get your house ready.
I didn't manage to do that in 4 weeks. I actually started about 48 hours before Pesach ( which is the real word for Passover). This is not good. I'm usually much more on top of this but the Things That Conspire were very active this year.
There were no Poppets in my life at this time last year - odd to think about, isn't it? So the little guys were very amused at the sudden spate of ridiculous cleaning and a five hour shopping trip, reported upon by The Most Adventurous Red, who accompanied me on my desperate search for the right gefilte fish jars. Poppets, at least the ones in my house, don't really seem to have any knowledge of Judaism and while they like to hang around the ritual objects in the house and appreciate that we set things on fire every week, this looked different to them. Some of them wandered around with questions. I couldn't really help them out,since I was trying to compress time and space through frenetic action, so I gave them some books to look at until I was done with the first round of emergency clean up.
The book they started with was the Moss Haggadah which is a beautiful book of art. There were times that observant Jews felt that you couldn't make images of things that were divine, and that included people, because people were divine, but at the same time there is a commandment to beautify the items that you use to fulfill the mitzvot. (Mitzvot means commandment - there are 613 of them so that's a lot of beautifying).
Haggadot ( the plural of Haggadah) were one of the few consistent places in the history of Jewish Visual Arts that were truly reflections of tastes and talent and locality. It was important to make them beautiful and it was heavily influenced by the regions that the calligraphers lived in. The Moss Haggadah is all hand calligraphed by a single artist in that tradition, and it is a wonderful teaching tool for the history of the Haggadot. I thought they might like it. It belongs to the Boy of the house, because he earned it and it the source of one of my great joys in life when he finds something in it that he thinks is really cool and tells us about it in his out-loud voice.
Question Everything really has a lot of doubt about the whole religion thing and certainly had even more doubts when he noticed me checking the pockets of the coats in the closet for bread crumbs.
He wondered about all those commandments and why we followed them and why other people didn't and why I was considering vacuuming the keyholes. Since I was in the process of skipping the whole keyhole vacuuming thing I explained to him that there was a whole section of the Haggadah about asking questions and why you should answer questions and taught our children that when they wre old enough to study on their own it was their religious duty to ask questions. So really, in Judaism that made him the Holiest Poppet of all. And then I left him to read the whole section while I set the oven on fire. It was on purpose - it's OK.
Question Everything was pretty impressed. Throughout the whole ritual book people were asking questions, and getting answers and disagreeing about the answers, and then asking more questions. He wondered how a religion could function that way, but I was busy reading labels for signs of autolyzed yeast extract to get them out of the cabinets and then scrubbing them down with bleach so I told him to let someone else have a turn with the book. You see very much like Jack Bauer I WAS RUNNING OUT OF TIME!
Violet found a really pretty page that matched her perfectly but it was all Hebrew, so she asked what it was. I explained that it was the 10 plagues, she was standing on the section of the Haggadah where when we read the plagues that Egypt suffered we remove a drop of wine from our glasses and drop them on to the napkin beside us. They were very pretty purple plagues , but Question Everything wanted to know why, so I did take the time to tell him. Even though the Seder celebrates that we were freed from oppression, many Egyptians suffered and died because of the actions of their ruler, and God and the plauges, so for each plague we remove a drop of wine from our glass to reduce our joy and mourn their lives and suffering. We need to remember that what we accomplished came with a cost, and they need to be respected, mourned and remembered too.
Violet decided that the plagues were still pretty, even if the whole thing was a little creepy and the Drunken Poppet called out from the mantel that it was a terrible waste of wine, but a stern look from Winter, and he apologized.
Meanwhile, Question Everything had moved on to another book that explained how to get ready for the Holiday by cleaning in a special way, and when he got to the section that explained why I might have wanted to vacuum out the keyholes, he asked me if I was going to Hell if I skipped it.
I sighed, and told him Jews don't really have a Hell, and besides there's a magic spell at the end that makes everything OK just in case. I had to leave them alone for a bit while we put away all the things that aren't kosher for Pesach and brought up all the things that were. You see every year we clear out all our cabinets and pots and pans and dishes and silverware that touched things that rise, and replace them with pots and pans and dishes and silverware that never touch things that rise. It's like spring cleaning on steroids. And it leads to a lot of jokes about why in hell a desert God would command us to carry six sets of dishes. But of course it's a joke, because the six sets of dishes are not part of the mitzvot, they're what a bunch of Rabbis decided to agree on after they had asked a whole bunch of questions and argued about a whole bunch of answers, and that desert God wasn't talking to them anymore so they just sort of guessed and Voila! six sets of dishes. Someday I'll talk about me and God but today isn't that day, let's just say I'm sure that God didn't ask us to do a bunch of this but I do a whole bunch of this anyway because there are better reasons than "God says so" but they are complicated so it's easier for people to think that's why I do it.
Well, I shouldn't have left Question Everything along with the rules for leavened versus unleavened things. Leaven is chametz and you have to have a chametz free house before the Seder. So the next thing I know, I walked past the living room and there was Question Everything reading aloud to the Gingerbread. Silly preoccupied me, I didn't think anything of it until I saw that the House Reds had pulled down my How To Run a Jewish Household book.
It seems that he had wondered aloud if
Gingerbread was allowed to stay in the house because she might be chametz. Since I wasn't around they asked Spike to figure it out. Spike corrected the misconception. He's very educated. Gingerbread was a Poppet, not a cookie, so she was fine to stick around.No one was going to be able to ingest her on a bet.
Except for maybe Cthulu or something like that, and Spike was pretty sure I wouldn't invite Cthulu to the Seder. Actually, Spike was a little off base there. If Cthulu comes to the door and asks politely to join us I'm supposed to feed him and make him welcome because he's a stranger here and we were once strangers in the land of Egypt. Of course I'm only going to let him in after he promises to behave and tone down the whole causing insanity thing. I'm not obligated to martyr myself for hospitality or anything. So really it's all up to Cthulu, but I digress. I'm sure Question didn't mean to upset her, it was my own fault for leaving them alone with multiple books and no moderator.
They sort of were getting the gist of things now, having split the reading between them, but certainly the ones having the most fun were the Poppets who chose to read the Kosher by Design cookbook. They spent a decent amount of time wondering if you could really have dessert without cake. However since the dessert menu for the Pesach week read " merengue cookies, coconut sorbet, toasted coconut marshmallows, strawberry mousse, chocolate mousse and ice-cream sundaes", the Pumpkin Spices, Chocos and Coffee Poppets agreed that you weren't really suffering for desserts during Peasch and you weren't really likely to lose weight during the eight days of the dietary restrictions either.
Now that they had the gist of things they realized that I was really rather insane trying to get everything that normally took the better part of two weeks accomplished in 24 hours with one full day of regular office work thrown in, and they decided that even if they didn't understand why I felt the need to do it, they would help. They enlisted the aid of the only actively Jewish-like Poppets in the house and began by Kashering the new kitchen that came in recently for Poppetropolis.
When they were done they waited until I got home from work and helped me with the six hours I had left to set up for the actual seder.
The Poppets learned alot more about the whole Seder thing then. And our Orange Brain saved the day - more on that tomorrow.