Columns - 2010

    Seder Masochism

    by Doug Brook
    Southern Jewish Life columnist

    Passover is a celebration of liberation, the seder is a feast of freedom. We rejoice, recline, recapitulate, and regurgitate the same story every year, in the single most practiced Jewish event on the books.

    However, statistically speaking, you're complaining about either preparing a seder or sitting through one. Or both. So let us indulge your inner demons about the unleavened days to come.

    Let us not complain about how long the seder is. That's too easy. Besides, it sounds like you should have plenty of time for it on a couple nights later this month.

    Let us not complain about the matzah, the same bread of affliction which our forefathers ate and passed along to us in the longest-standing hazing ritual on record. Literally, it's the same matzah they ate then that we eat today, which explains the taste. Really. The year on the box is from the Jewish calendar, not the Anglican calendar. And notice that nowhere does it say our foremothers ate matzah. They knew better.

    Let us instead be intellectual by exploring the more sophisticated pains staked by the Passover seder. Let us see if they make Vlad the Impaler paler by comparison, or if the stake you feel through your gut is just an unchewed matzah shard.

    As appropriate to the seder, this intellectual exploration will be in the form of a question: Why is this meal longer than all other meals?

    At all other meals, we can get our carbs from any of several sources, or avoid carbs entirely. At this meal, we are forced to ingest carbs reconstituted from last year's J. Crew dress shirt inserts.

    At all other meals, we can use whatever spices we want, or none at all. At this meal, we are forced to eat bitter herbs that have more kick than Herb Tarlek's socks after four episodes of "WKRP in Cincinatti."

    At all other meals, we can dip whatever we want in whatever we want, or not. At this meal, we are forced to dip the bitter herbs twice. Why? Reread the previous answer.

    At all other meals, we can sit up straight or recline, at the risk of parental scolding, judgment by peers, or dumping by dates. After we spend a year getting used to having decent posture at the table, at this meal we're forced to recline on a pillow. Chiropractors rejoice.

    Of course, none of this directly answers why this meal is longer than all others. But by this point the answer is obvious, even to the wiseass evil son who's too simple to know not to ask.

    These four answers to one single question are commonly misnomered as The Four Questions (tm). In truth, this one question leads into the asking and answering of three more questions, a mere hour or two later.

    Most Hagaddahs contain the popularized answers, the ones they want you to read. However, the following authentic answers were just gleaned from the long-lost, recently discovered Mishnah tractate, Bava Gump.

    What is the significance of the paschal lamb? More important, what is a paschal, anyway?

    The paschal lamb was invented by Louis Pascal, the creator of an old computer programming language, who was also an animal geneticist. This special breed of lamb was genetically engineered specifically so its bone would fit on seder plates of all makes and models without breaking, except the Toyota Prius.

    The kilopascal, commonly believed to be one thousand pascals, the physics measure of force per unit area, is actually based on the force required to expel the kilopaschal (Aramaic for "killer paschal"), which was the first leg of lamb, on which renowned Catholic physicist Blaise Pascal choked while a guest at a seder when he gave in to hunger and tried to stealthily eat it during the fifteenth verse of Dayenu.

    He survived, at least until the marror, so the title of Dayenu has nothing to do with him dying then. Though it seems he'd had enough.

    What is the significance of the matzah that we eat?

    We eat the matzah to remember the constipation felt by the Israelites as they fled Egypt and for forty years crossed a desert that had fewer port-o-lets than Woodstock.

    What is the significance of the marror that we eat?

    We eat the marror to remind us of our sinuses, and how they felt before spring settled into the air.

    Bava Gump also expands on its previously revealed ruling on shrimp being kosher, by saying that eating shrimp on Passover does not violate keeping kosher for Passover. Why? To keep kosher for Passover, you add the Passover dietary rules to what you do the rest of the year. If you eat shrimp the rest of the year, eating it on Passover is not a violation of keeping kosher for Passover.

    Doug Brook is a writer in Silicon Valley who has been passed over. For more information, past columns, other writings, and more, visit For exclusive online content, become a fan of The Beholder's Eye on Facebook.


    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.