#BlogExodus 2: Tell

#BlogExodus prompts“All right, let’s go around the table,” our rabbi said, sweeping his gaze over the people crowded around the long, tall table at the back of the bar’s patio. “Tell us your name and, let’s see… your favorite Passover dish.”

Sampson and I arrived late for the pre-study schmoozing yesterday evening, but we were just in time to dive into the monthly “Torah on Tap” discussion. We know almost everyone’s names without being told, and the regulars know ours by now. As the imaginary introduction baton passed from person to person, we learned that matzoh ball soup is a near-universal Passover favorite, that Sephardic versus Ashkenazi charoset is a topic of some debate, and that people who claim to love fiery, fresh-grated horseradish are acclaimed as stupendous tough guys and gals.

With the key issues (i.e., best Pesach food) settled amongst ourselves, we were free to begin our loud and lively conversation on the month’s topic: “Plagues, Torture, and Collective Punishment.” We read selections from Torah and Talmud, rabbis both modern and ancient, Israeli Supreme Court rulings and psalms. The intensity of our discussion was balanced by our comfort with one another as we sipped our stouts or our sodas.

I like to think that anyone who saw us there, a group of Jews freely and publicly displaying our passion for our text, our tradition, and our deep commitment to ethics, would have been able to tell that something vital and vibrant was at work. All of us there were busy people, many having come straight from a long day at work (which, in Sampson’s case, involved two draining flights with brand-new students), and yet it mattered to us all enough that we made the effort to come together with our community to study big issues through a Jewish lens. That tells me something about my people and my Judaism.


#BlogExodus, the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, invites participants to chronicle the weeks leading up to Passover through blog posts, photos, and other social media expressions.

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#BlogExodus 1: Believe

#BlogExodus promptsBelieve, believe… I believe I need to get my rear in gear for Passover preparation, because I just had my very first Pesach stress-dream of the season last night.

We had just arrived back in Pensacola after a whirlwind jaunt up to Northern Virginia to celebrate my amazing father-in-law’s 70th birthday. While my parents’ guest room is quite comfy, the sheer concentrated fun of the short visit meant that we were up past our bedtime every night. We arrived home yesterday evening after a day of schlepping through crowded airports, looked at the flight schedule, and discovered that the Navy was welcoming Sampson back from leave with a 5:30 AM brief. So much for easing back into things.

My attempt to squeeze a few more hours of rest out of the pre-dawn darkness after Sampson headed to work was thwarted by an intensely vivid dream about showing up at a seder where they were using a strangely colorful Hagaddah and playing rock music for accompaniment. The “stress” part of the dream came halfway through the (bizarre, rock-and-roll-laden) service leading up to the meal, when I realized we had forgotten to make the dish we’d promised to bring. Ack! The shame!

And then the dream morphed into me and Ecco the Dolphin rescuing other dolphins who were beached on a marshy shore, but that is less relevant to the subject at hand.

In real life, some friends from our synagogue have invited us to their seder this year. I already know that our contribution to the festive meal will be a vegetable dish of some kind, but I haven’t made a final decision on what it will be. My dream would seem to indicate that the prospect of cooking something to delight the palates of twenty-one people is weighing on my mind more than I’d realized.

I believe I’ll get out my cookbooks and make a final recipe choice today.


#BlogExodus, the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, invites participants to chronicle the weeks leading up to Passover through blog posts, photos, and other social media expressions.

September Snuck Up

September’s arrival brought with it a refreshing drop in temperature, a breath of autumn that puts me in mind of new school supplies and apple-picking with Hillel.  Alas, I neither have need of new school supplies, nor am I any longer a member of Hillel’s target demographic.  (For the goyim, Hillel is an organization for Jewish college students; I was heavily involved in my college’s chapter back in the day.)  The lifting of summer’s lethargy that comes with the cooler weather is welcome even in my post-academic life, though, and I’m getting excited about the coming fall.

Rosh Hashanah is coming up, with its promises of apples and honey in hopes of a sweet new year.  In fact, friend of mine from college just sent me a link to a delectable-sounding apple and honey challah that might have to find its way into my baking rotation for the holiday.  It would be more fun, of course, if I could look forward to the annual apple-picking trip with a Jewish community of my peers, but we haven’t found a group in our area that evokes the same sort of camaraderie.  Part of it is that we’re stuck between ages or phases of life that have strong support groups.   Having graduated years ago, we’re too old for Hillel.  We’re married, so Jewish singles groups are out.  We don’t have children yet, so we aren’t networking with parents taking their kids to Hebrew school, either.  I know some synagogues have “Young Professionals” groups that cater to those in our situation, but our shul isn’t one of them.

Oh well.  It’s not like we’re stationed someplace with no Jewish community whatsoever, which could easily become the case if we wind up in Japan.  I just get a little sad thinking that for as long as we’re moving at least every three, we will perpetually be “the new couple” at whatever synagogue we attend (let’s face it: there are some shuls where you can be “the new couple” for ten years or more).  It would be nice to meet some local folks our age with whom we could exchange Shabbat dinner invitations from time to time.  It’s tough–some would say impossible–to be a Jew in a vacuum, but we don’t have the luxury of putting down roots in one community and letting relationships develop slowly over many years.  Couple that with the fact that both my husband and I are inclined towards introversion, and we’ve got ourselves a problem for which we haven’t yet found a solution.  But who knows?  Maybe the upcoming year 5770 holds some fresh insights for us.

Ah well, social maunderings can’t detract too much from my overall anticipation of the new season.  My baby (!) brother is turning twenty-one, my college roommate is getting married to my husband’s college roommate (sounds like a sit-com, huh?), and we are lucky enough to be spending this autumn in a part of the country filled with deciduous trees that will soon be turning glorious colors.  Life is good.