The year before I converted to Judaism my husband and I were invited to our rabbi’s home for Passover. We were honored to attend and felt instantly at ease with his three children and their spouses, all similar in ages to ourselves. But I quickly discovered that age was the only similarity between us at the table that evening as they burst into Hebrew, song, tertiary conversations about the four questions and memorized text from the family Haggadah. I sat there gobbling up matzah and gagging down gefilte fish – drunk on wine but mostly just scared out of my mind.
What in the hell was I getting myself into? I couldn’t even find the afikomen let alone my place on the page of backwards sentences. The only time my family broke into song during dinner was when my brother farted.
My husband could see the sheer panic on my face (and half chewed fish in my napkin). He squeezed my knee and whispered, “Tam, this is NOT what a typical seder looks like – this is…well…advanced.” Advanced was an understatement. It was meaningful, humorous and full of history and symbolism. I was in awe.
Over the next year, I converted and became good friends with our rabbi’s daughter. She and I actually had lots in common and I just happened to be in the market for Jewish friends. We lived three hours apart but visited each other often and stayed connected via text messages, “Shabbat Shalom!” or “shit, my brisket is dry – how long did your mom say to cook this?”
The following year we were again invited for Passover dinner. With my new tribe membership and enthusiasm for the holiday we responded with an emphatic, YES! But just before Passover I came down with a horrible stomach flu, the kind of sick that makes you wish you were single so your husband wouldn’t have to hear (or see) the horror coming from the bathroom. I was lying unshowered and miserable on the couch, praying I’d be healthy enough for tomorrow’s seder when my phone buzzed. It was a text from my friend, the rabbi’s daughter.
Rabbi’s daughter: “Where are you?”
Me: “Lying on the couch.”
Rabbi’s daughter: “Seriously? My dad is waiting on you guys…are you coming?”
And then I had one of the biggest “Oh Shit” moments of my life so far.
PASSOVER. IS. TONIGHT.
No. This was a mistake. I checked the calendar and it said Passover starts TOMORROW. Tomorrow when I am feeling better. Tomorrow when my hair isn’t matted to the side of my face and I can keep down solids (and cold fish?)
I contemplated going. I pictured myself throwing on a nice outfit, brushing the puke out of my hair and making it just in time for the hard-boiled eggs. And then I gagged. I hadn’t eaten food in three days – who was I kidding? Standing a Rabbi up is one thing but vomiting up the symbol of new life all over on his Israeli carpet might be enough to get my tribe card revoked. I looked at my husband and started to cry. We just stood up our Rabbi on Passover!
(text) Me: “OMG. No. Long story.”
Rabbi’s daughter: “I’m just going to tell him to go ahead and start without you and you can tell me the story later…”
My husband: Didn’t you write it on the calendar?
Me: “The calendar said it starts tomorrow!”
My husband: “You know when it says that, the holiday actually starts the night before right?”
Me: How the hell was I supposed to know? I’ve been Jewish for like a second! Why would you put me in charge of our Jewish identity and social calendar!?
My husband: Because you’re always in charge of our identity and calendars.
Needless to say, everyone understood but I couldn’t live it down the next night at the second seder. Apparently, when you stand up the Rabbi…word gets around.