Saturday, April 11, 2009

Whyfore is this Brain Different than all other Brains?

So yesterday, I told the story about how the Poppets learned about Pesach, which is Passover. This is the next part of that story, so if you missed it you, can start here, assuming that you like to read things in order. 

Remember how Question Everything tried to convince Gingerbread that she was Chametz? I realized that Question knew what chametz was by that time but maybe not everyone reading does. The story goes that since the Pharaoh was known for changing his mind very suddenly, even after the really nasty plague with lots of death, everyone was still afraid that Pharaoh wouldn't really let anyone go, so even though they were supposed to have enough time to outfit  500,000 or so people for a journey to no-where Moses got a heads up to leave before the provisions were fully ready, so where bread usually had a chance to rise and most likely they used sourdough type starters, they left ASAP, which means the bread was flat and most likely really dense, like a fallen souffle. 

What it was not was leaven-free.  It had leavening in it that wasn't allowed to do what leavening does. So in remembrance of the speed with which they had to leave we cut out all leavening. So no yeast, baking soda or baking powder, even though baking soda and baking powder are minerals not leaving. Even the rabbis at OU will tell you that you can have baking powder now, but that's kind of freaky after so many years of doing it the other way, even if the other way was wrong so most Jews still eat the edible cardboard we call matzah exclusively.

Clearing the Chametz

This is the day that Choco Poppet arrived at the house, the frosting is a family recipe for Mocha Butter Rum Frosting. She approved and helped us make sure that none was left.    One of the really awesome things about the time leading up to Pesach is that you  bake a lot of cakes and cookies to use up all of the non-Pesadick stuff before the holiday.

So we were doing pretty well with the whole "no-Chametz" thing in the House, and we had reassured Gingerbread that she could stay since she contained no yeast, but it was still the day before, which is the day of the Seder because we're all Lunar like that,  and not only did I have to switch the EVERYTHING, I had to make all the food for the Seder itself.  I couldn't start cooking until the kitchen was switched. And then I had to go back to work because of the Things That Conspire.

The House Reds usually live on the painted chest where Shabbat is celebrated, and hang out in the Shofar, which I'll explain some other time. but they knew that every Friday, we cover two loaves of bread, and light things on fire and sing with some wine.The Poppets really wanted to start ahead of time and the one thing they were pretty sure of is that they could put away the Challah cover.

 The bread was definitely chametz and so they figured they were safe getting started with that.  

I came home in time to see them sizing up the ingredient bowls in the cupbord, they were about to call Spike to go look up the instructions for what had to go and what could stay, but I was able to tell them that the Rabbis felt that glass, being transparent was OK as long as it was mikvahed.  Don't ask, it's another magic spell. Luckily I have a living stream nearby.

But then we got to the more complex part - remember that six set of dishes thing? Yeah. I tie off the dairy dishes, replace the meat and use my good china for the Seder and my other good china for dairy during Pesach. 

All of the regular meat dishes get put away and then out come the Passover dishes and silverware. 
                  When I was growing up we didn't do this.

But we did have special china for the Seder. There are two real world things that happen when you do this. One, your cabinets get fully cleaned once a year. You'd be surprised how you can manage to get dust bunnies even when you use a space every day. I freely admit that I would not have known that if it weren't for Pesach.

The other real life thing is the "religious heritage" one. By changing everything, on a timeline, even though it's not the same thing as our ancestors were doing, it disrupts our lives. It forces us not to relax into systems we take for granted, we have to spend a little more time thinking about how we're going to manage in the world and even in our own kitchen. We might not have everything we need because we didn't switch it in time.

I used to think the Rabbis were interfering nudnicks when they made up these rules, but that was when I didn't have the experience of following some of them. After a year or two, I realized that it was a "body lesson" forcing you to walk the walk of the story, in a small way. It was connected. It was connected to my grandmothers and their mothers, who did this for years, and my mother, who did not do it but still taught me that it could be done. It doesn't mean that the Rabbi's weren't interfering nudnicks, but it does mean that perhaps there is sometimes more value in things than I might recognize immediately.

There are lots of lessons about how to treat others and how to move on from being humiliated in the Exodus story. Some people handled it well, some did not and some, like most humans, did both. I love the fact that Torah does not hide the imperfections of messy humanity in these stories, nor does it claim perfection for God, who is depicted as not being omniscient, but it omnipotent. The modern religions, including mine, have difficulty with that but I respect it. 

We only see the fragments of something that could be a God, we might not be able to understand it, but I can change the dishes and remember that three millennia ago, the people that were there had held on to the idea of freedom after generations of slavery. That amazes me. It was not easy to follow through and they wanted to stay long enough for their bread to rise. Freedom was an abstract, bread was real. Freedom with no land was scary and bread was comfort and safety and health. 

I can change my kitchen for a week.  I am still connected to those terrified people 3 millennia ago who sort of knew what freedom was, but weren't really sure that it could happen for them, or that it should. They asked to go back.

How many times do we ask to go back instead of choose the path that will give us growth or freedom. How many times do we want to stay with the devil we know?

Moses and Pharaoh gave them very little choice. I would not have been Moses or Pharaoh. I'm sure that I would have been one of the women wondering how we were going to feed all these people on the road. God told us to move, and we still wanted to make bread, but God didn't promise us food until he was reminded that we needed it. That's who I would have been, the one reminding the Prophets and Politicians and Divinities that we needed to eat or we would die out there just as surely as Pharaoh would kill us all here.

This is what I think of when I change the dishes. I share some of this with the Poppets, who think it is fascinating and notice that the Passover Dishes are very pretty. We are beautifying the mitzvot again.

Everything seems to be in place, but if you read any of the links from yesterday's post you know it's almost inevitable that I left some chametz in the house by accident. Especially since I didn't vacuum out everywhere like I usually do. So the Rabbis, with whom I frequently disagree, but still respect for what they were trying to do, gave us something to cover our butts just in case.

The Magic Spell

When you do everything right and you follow the whole 4 week plan, the husband comes home on "eruv pesach" with 10 pieces of chametz that he brought in from outside the house. Then he hides them and everyone in the family has to find all 10 of them, they dust them up with a feather into a wooden spoon and burn the whole thing with a special blessing that basically says. "If we missed anything God, please pretend it's not there and we will too. Thanks bunches, really!" 

The Girl of the House, has at least once in her life used the fact that I recite this incantation every year as proof that I am not a Muggle. I continuously reassure her that I am an ordinary wife and mother, just like all the other wives and mothers out there. Then she saw Pippin. Now when I say it she just smirks.

For very complicated reasons, I have a ritual feather that was given to me by a Native American engineer, that I use for this ritual, so here's the weirdness, I wasn't going to do the ritual completely correctly this year, so I wouldn't use the purifying feather he gave me, because it wasn't right. God, if concerned at all, was certainly going to be OK with what I was doing, but I didn't want to disrespect the person who had answered me truthfully when I asked a question and made me a gift with that answer. No half-assed rituals with that gift. It would be wrong. (Of course the original practice had you burn the feather too. So my regular version had already modified the version my grandparents did. but hey, it's a living religion. )

My house was not cleaned in time for us to play Hide The Chametz. Which, by the way is a lot of fun when everyone in the family loves each other, but can be a battleground in dysfunctional orthodox families. I always think of that when I perform this ritual too. In the back of my head I am thankful that I can find my own way, with the support of those around me and that at least in my family my beliefs are used to empower me as opposed to disenfranchise me. I am thankful for that, and hopeful that others will be able to escape things that oppress them, even if those things are the religion that I love. 

This year the Yetzairs helped us with the magic spell. Sweet little Babalonyian Rabbis, they knew about the asshole husbands even back in the day, and this was one of the ways that they used to prevent domestic violence and emotional abuse, that's why some things that look really weird on the outside are supported even by extreme Jewish rationalists like Maimondes. 

So complicated, so much to teach. So much more to learn. It's important to know that the reason Rabbis who made the Talmud knew about asshole husbands was that occasionally one of them was the asshole husband. The Talmud doesn't hide that either, but your teacher might. Nobody's perfect, even if they are righteous. 

Now it was time to set the fortune cookie on fire. 

Judaism is all about Food and Fire. Sustenance and Spark and since we just had the spark it was time to move on to the sustenance part.

Cooking the Festive Meal

There is nothing more Jewish in the modern world than chicken soup with matzah balls. I have made them at Burning Man, my matzah balls have risen in the desert. Me and Miriam - we rock the desert lifestyle. Maybe someday I'll dance in the desert with Timbrel. The entire section of Leviticus that deals with the movement of the camp makes so much more sense after my sojourns in Black Rock. My real-life Rabbis are very supportive of my fusion of extreme art experience and Judaism. Once again, I am lucky, I know not everyone finds the support to dance on the edge of heresy in order to get closer to Being.

I made "from scratch" soup. I usually take short cuts. There were none this year. It is my personal penance for rushing everything else this holiday, I even let Whole Foods make the Charoset, which is incredibly obnoxious of me. I needed to make sure I did at least one thing right. And the right thing might as well be delicious.

Setting the Seder Table 

While the soup was cooking, it was time to bring out the things that will be used on the table to perform the Seder. There is a moment when you dip bitter herbs in salt water to remember the tears cried by our ancestors when they were slaves in Egypt and they could not ever imagine being free.
The Shamrock Poppet who came to the House by way of my Perfectly Normal Irish Mother-In-Law, suggested this year that I use another gift she had given me. 

The Tyrone Crystal bowl she had given me from her latest trip to Ireland had never been used for anything else, so we were able to put it's first appearance out on the Seder table. Also I think the Irish know a few things about tears and longing.  It was perfect. 

Winter brought out the Matzah Plate that I had acquired quickly to handle a difficult situation. It reminds me of how far we in the house have come from our own story of Exodus. 
The Kindergarten Poppet throughly approves of our Matzah Cover. Remember the Challah cover that the Reds and Violet put away? This is the same thing, but for Matzah, it was made by the Boy in Kindergarten, it is finer than any silk and more beautiful than any tapestry. Especially now when he's many years older and looking towards the time he will leave. It's captured Time. There will never be another matzah cover on my table. If he has children, they can make one for him. When I'm no longer here they can have this one. But not until then.

It's close enough. 

But I do love my Seder Plate, and I love the fact that it's mine specifically. So now we will get to the part where the Orange Brain saves the Day. 

The Orange on the Seder Plate

That story goes, a Male Rabbi told a woman that a woman belongs on the Bimah like an Orange belongs on the Seder Plate. (Bimahs are where you lead services from/its like a pulpit but it's not). I never heard that story until I read it. 

I had heard a story that went like this, "A Rabbi told one of the student Rabbi's that gays belong in the synagogue like and Orange belongs on a Seder plate." That story was closer. The real story is this. While working to increase the inclusion of Gays and Lesbians in traditional Jewish practice, and activist female rabbi suggested that individuals show their support by putting a crust of bread on the Seder plate. A well known feminist Rabbi thought that this reinforced the idea that being homosexual was like being chametz, unacceptable, a violation of the law. She wanted to do  something that showed that just because the Rabbis who wrote the Talmud hadn't thought of it didn't mean it wasn't kosher.

So she said, why don't we place an orange on the Seder Plate. It's wonderful and delicious and appropriate and kosher. So I thought that was wonderful. My real life Rabbis taught me about the Orange. I usually use a mandarin orange, or a tangerine. It's been three years since my flavor of Judaism ruled that openly gay clergy could serve without restrictions and I think it's even more important to put the orange down now, so we remember that it wasn't always so. It's an important part of what I want my kids to think about when they are making seders of their own, or visiting other seders if they choose a different path than me. 

It was an hour before the Seder, I did not have an orange, no way of getting one. Then one of the Junior Partners pointed out that he happened to be orange.  

Even better, on all sorts of symbolic levels.  

So that is what happend at Passover at the House this year. Every year we tell the story of what happened in Egypt in the first person "This is what Elohim did for me, when he brought me out if Egypt". But we never tell the story of preparing. We should share it, we prepared in Egypt and we prepare each year and those stories are the stories of our families and ourselves. And it's families and individuals that make up a People. 

Having the Poppets made me think about each object and it's place in our Order, our personal Seder.  That's worth sharing here. Because when years go by, and the kids grow up and might forget why something was important to us, they can always find it here, in the wilderness of the internet. It's where you go after you've been freed. 

The Poppet Haggadah of Preparation for the House.

It's like writing names on the back of pictures. 

I wonder if we'll ever go back to a plain old orange on the Seder plate ever again?


Stacey said...

I think there's no better place for an orange brain than a seder plate. Ha! I was going to tell what the poppets (and rats) got up to at my place for easter (they tried to have a pageant, NOBODY wanted to be Jesus, except Grimmy, but he couldn't because, well, you know, he's DEATH.) We all decided that it would offend too many people though, so instead told the story of how Grimmy came to live here at the Satellite.

wv is "morchem" which sounds like it should be part of the jewish pantheon.

Drinne said...

You could put it on the forums at Poppet Planet under Stories?

I was actually afraid of posting this because it was too religious and didn't want to offend the readers who were uncomfortable with religion.

I also worry that when people find out I have one they associate it with things I don't believe in because that's what they believe my religion is.

But this one is really for my kids. I think you should post the story - or send it to me an I'll post it here. Guest Post. : )

Anonymous said...

"How many times do we ask to go back instead of choose the path that will give us growth or freedom. How many times do we want to stay with the devil we know?"

Drinne~ thank you for this. With your permission, I would like to quote you on my blog.

Actually, thank you for both of your posts explaining in detail your celebrations and traditions. It is the only time I have actually learned anything in depth about religions outside of Christianity.

Drinne said...

Hi Kelly, of course you can quote me. Glad you like it. I actually learned almost everyone else's religion including Baal Worship and the Sumers before really learning my own. I made the mistake of thinking it was just like the first half of christianity, even other Jews would say that to me.

They were so wrong. The biggest lie I ever believed was the term Judeo-Christian. The last time that frankenstein word applied to anyone was before Paul got ahold of Jesus' teachings.

Learning all the anthropological ancient stuff helps me understand some of the weirder stuff that lives on in traces in Judaism, and I have to remind myself that I have access to knowledge of ancient cultures due to advances in study and science that the Rabbis didn't when they were writing about 800 years after the temple was built and Solomon and all that. Talmud started being codified 1800 years ago, and 1500 years after Moses and Pharaoh threw down, so they were writing about things that happened 3000 years ago and a millennia and half before themselves. So it helps me to remember that when I study things they say that are stupid : )

I've made sure that the kids are exposed not just to all the living religions but a number of the dead ones too. But they are learning their Judaism ground up- it's too hard to play catch up later in life. Talmud is over 30 volumes long and it can take as much a year to study each one. They might still walk away, but at least they'll really know what the religion is about instead of letting other people define it for them.

Anonymous said...

1- I know we emailed/communicated over poppets, but did we squeal over having burning man in common?? :P We are going this year again!

2- I loved this. I LOVE hearing the reasons why behind things, and love it even more when someone says "yeah it's because someone made it up way back then, but I still do it because..." (A great mixture of tradition, common sense, and flexibility while holding on to the original meaning. While some traditionalists may cringe, it's inspiring to me and I think the only way some of the ancient ways would survive into the future.)

I've been to a passover meal once but learned so much more (in such an entertaining way) from your post, thank you!!! very enjoyable.

Jessie said...

This is the best, I love learning stuff from you. You make it so simple and interesting! Of course the poppets do help...