Short Stories and poetry | Jamie Glaser | Passover Pals

Passover Pal

Passover Pals

Noah Jacobson walked down the hall with his friend Brendan after school on Friday. He was going to come to his house to play until his mom picked him up at 5:30.
“What do you want to do at my house?” Brendan asked.
“Do you have Uno?”
Yep, but better yet, I have a trampoline!
“Woohoo” Noah replied. He wished that he had one.
Brendan’s mom met them at the door as they said goodbye to their second grade teacher Mrs. Weiss.
“Have a good weekend boys, see you Monday.”
After jumping on the trampoline, playing with Brendan’s dog Abby, and having a snack they were tired and settled down to play Uno.
“My brother always wins this game.” Noah said. I need to perfect my skills.
“Me too” said Brendan, my dads too quick.
Noah looked around Brendan’s house. It was adorned with spring decor and a sign that said Happy Easter with a bunny rabbit with a basket of eggs in his mouth.
“So, are you ready for Easter?” Brendan asked.
“Nope” Noah replied. “We don’t celebrate Easter. We celebrate Passover.”
“What’s Passover?” Brendan asked.
Noah had a lot of friends but most of them were Jewish like he was. He had friends from Sunday school and a few other friends at the public school he attended. He had just realized that Brendan was one of the only few friends that he had that was not Jewish.
“Oh, Passover? It’s a great holiday. But, its kind of hard…”
It takes a lot of time to get ready for. Its the holiday where we celebrate the Jewish people escaping Pharaoh in Egypt. We eat bread called matza which is flat to remember that the Jewish people didn’t have time to bake their bread. It taste good, but, it’s a little boring. Macaroons aren’t boring though, those things are delicious!.”
Brendan laughed.
“What’s a macaroon?” He asked. And how do you get ready for Passover? Do you clean? Mom cleans for Easter.” She says no muddy foot or paw prints on the floor before grandma and grandpa come!”
“We clean a lot.” Noah replied. We have to take a flashlight and look for all the chametz. Chametz is anything with yeast. Cake cookies, bread, croutons, that sort of thing.”
“You mean you can’t eat cookies on Passover?”
“Nope. Unless they are Passover friendly.”
Sounds intense.
Brendan had a lot more questions and Noah had a lot more answers but it was 5:30.
“Boys.” Mrs. Ellis came into the living room. Noah’s mom is here.
The boys got up and walked to the front door.
“Hi sweetie” Noah’s mom greeted him. Did you have a good time?”
“Yes, I was just telling Brendan about Passover! He has never celebrated it before.”
His mom smiled. “Yes its a lovely holiday and now we are going to begin another fun Jewish holiday that comes every friday. Shabbat.”
“Wait, what? You guys celebrate the same holiday every week?”
Brendan’s mom smiled. “Jewish families celebrate the Sabbath on Friday evening and Saturday.”
“Hey mom can Brendan come over for Shabbat dinner tonight?”
“Brendan is meeting his grandparents for dinner at a restaurant this evening but we would love for the boys to have Shabbat dinner at your home at another time.”
On the ride home Noah told his mom about teaching Brendan about Passover.”
“He had never heard of it. So I told him about the special food we eat, how we clean up the chametz and how we get ready. Maybe, we could invite him over for the Passover Seder?”
“That would be nice.” his mother replied. On Monday you can ask him and I will call his mother.
After Shabbat Noah was eating ice cream with his big brother Elijah.
Elijah, we do so many different things on Passover. Things we don’t do the rest of the year. Do you know why? I want to explain to Brendan why in case he asks.
“You’re lucky, “ Elijah replied because you get to have a friend come over for the Seder. All my friends have their own Seders. Plus it’s my birthday! THATS why mom and dad named me Elijah! I was born on Passover and sometimes my birthday lands on Passover. This year my GOLDEN birthday, April 10th will be on Passover. But, no one has time to celebrate it. Because they’re celebrating Passover too.
“We’re having your party at the rock wall gym next week.” Noah replied, which is even more fun than Passover!
Elijah laughed. “True, I just wish I could eat real cake on my birthday, not that powdery stuff grandma always brings. Then you gotta smile and say it’s good, because you know, its grandma.”
“Yea, your birthday cakes always were kinda gross. I’m glad I was born in October….”
After a restful Shabbat of playing tag outside, wrestling in the basement, and playing Mario Kart, on Sunday the real work began. The family began their Passover cleaning day which involved searching for the chametz, or bread crumbs lying in the house to get it “Passover ready”.
“Boys,” their dad reminded them, the: “just because if you don’t see the crumb it’s like it never existed” rule exists, doesn’t mean you don’t have to SEARCH for bread crumbs. Besides, this year I got some special lamps, lanterns like they used in the old times to look under furniture to find crumbs.”
“Cool, did you use them when you were a kid dad?”
“Um, more like my grandparents”. Their dad answered.
“YOU had grandparents?” Noah exclaimed. “Yes,” he answered. “Ok, enough questions, let’s get this old fashioned chametz search party started!”
Every year Elijah found the afikomen, or the hidden matza in the home after the seder. Elijah was good at everything, and Noah, being younger always wanted to be good at everything too. So this year with his brand new old lantern he took his chametz search very seriously. He wanted to find the most so he could tell Brendan and his other friends on Monday. He was more excited about bragging rights than inviting Brendan to the seder.
He worked hard and filled two whole plastic bags full of crumbs. Wow, we’re messy, he laughed. That’s a LOT of graham cracker crumbs. Then he remembered, he was really the only person in his family who ate graham crackers. At least he did something more than Elijah.
“Coming in first, with the most crumbs in his bag, Noah Jacobson!!” His dad announced. Coming in a close second Elijah Jacobson! Sorry there are no medals, maybe next year in Jerusalem.” Their dad smiled.
“Noah found the most crumbs because he dropped the most.” Elijah declared. Noah smiled sheepishly. It wasn’t untrue.
“How was your weekend?” Brendan asked. Mine was wonderful except for Saturday at 2:00.”
“What happened Saturday at 2;00?” Noah asked.
“Easter pictures” Brendan replied, making a face. “I had to wear a tie. Yikes” But my team won our soccer game yesterday!”
“Cool,” Noah replied. “Speaking of winning I won the chametz collection contest!”
“Well that’s a lot of Cs.” Brendan replied. “What’s a chametz collection contest?”
Noah smiled mysteriously. He decided to get creative with his invitation. “If you would like to learn the meaning of chametz and other fascinating Hebrew words, as well as having a chance at winning the “find the matzah” contest you should join the Jacobson family Passover celebration!
“Yea!” Brendan replied. “If it’s ok with my mom and dad.”
“I think my moms calling yours today to ask. It’s on a Friday this year. Which means it’s on Shabbat. Which means the seder is longer. But mom said if we are patient and don’t make too much noise there will be extra ice cream in it for us. Oh, and it’s my brother’s birthday. So my grandma is making him a Passover Birthday cake. It tastes terrible. So what you do is put ice cream on a little piece, eat it, and tell grandma it’s delicious.”
“That sounds...doable.” Brendan replied. “But please explain to me. How can cake taste bad?”
Noah sighed. “The absence of a very important ingredient.”
“Why no yeast?”
Just then the bell rang, and Noah had to save his answer for later.
After school, as Noah was waiting for his mom to pick him up, Brendan came bounding toward him! “My mom said yes!” He exclaimed. “She’s outside in the car, and said I could come up and tell you really quick. And ask if she can have me bring anything. I told her no sandwiches!” He joked.
“Alright! I’ll ask my mom about that. Bring your appetite, your matza search goggles and a nice smile for grandma when you eat the powder cake.”
“I don’t have matzah search goggles.” Brendan looked worried.
“I was kidding!”
“Don’t scare me dude! This is my first Seder, go easy.”
Noah laughed. “Ok, see you tomorrow night, and before in class. Bye!”
Noah’s favorite holiday was not Passover. He liked Purim the best because he got a ton of candy at the Purim carnival. He did not like his Jewish holiday birthday. Sometimes it landed on Yom Kippur. On that day you could not eat. One year it did land on Yom Kippur. His parents were hungry and somber all day. He did not feel celebrated. He felt ignored. But the next day his parents did not forget about him. They took him to the zoo and out for pizza. Then two weeks later his rabbi gifted him with six candied apples on Simcha Torah. Six because it was his 6th birthday and because candy apples were his favorite treat. Jewish holidays were not very convenient sometimes. But the good news was that his Jewish community was very kind and generous.
Soon it was the big night. The doorbell rang as Noah’s mom ran around the house making sure pillows were straight and crumbs that might not have existed were swept up. She reminded everyone in the house to take off their shoes even though nobody was wearing shoes. Mommy needed to eat!
“Hiya”, Brendan said excitedly. Then he whispered to Noah “Mom suggested I wear a tie again tonight but I talked her out of it. Thankfully.”
Both boys were wearing pastel polo shirts and khaki pants. Noah wore his Spider man T shirt under his fancy one. He wore it for good luck in the afikomen search.
“Tadah!” Grandma Zimmerman came in after Brendan.
“I have a big surprise this year!” She kissed Elijah on the cheek. “Hello ‘almost birthday boy’.”
She put a square shaped box on the table.
“I bought the Passover fruities you kids love so much.” Noah nudged Brendan.
“Those are delicious.” he whispered.
“And,” grandma continued “ This year I bought a special Passover Birthday cake for Elijah! It’s not every year you turn a whole decade! My girlfriend knows this lady who has a kosher bakery. Of course she prepared it for Passover and her Passover cakes are one hundred percent kosher and one hundred percent delicious! Well, I think they’re one hundred percent delicious, I haven't’ tasted it! But it sure does look cute.” She patted Noah on the back. “You’ll be my verdict right?”
Noah didn’t know what a verdict was but he enjoyed receiving a job from grandma.
Before the Seder everyone received a job. Grandma helped mom with last minute dinner preparations, dad gave himself the job of showing grandpa some new books in his office library and the boys were given the job to go downstairs and play X BOX until they were called for dinner. Easiest job ever!
When the seder was about to begin Noah started to feel nervous. He wasn’t sure why. His dad noticed. He asked him if he was ok. Since Brendan went to use the restroom he could tell him.
“Dad, Brendan isn’t Jewish. What if he thinks some of the stuff we do at the seder is weird? What if he doesn’t like the food? I mean except for the gefilte fish, that stuff is nasty.”
After laughing his dad replied “Noah, if Brendan invited you to his home for Easter how would you feel?”
“Pretty good. I think it’d be fun!”
“Do you think that’s how Brendan feels? It sure seems like he’s having a good time. And when you told him he was invited to dinner did he respond and say, ‘Naw, I don’t wanna’…. Or ‘Yippee!!’ ”
Noah laughed. “The second one.” He replied. “Thanks dad. Let’s eat.”
His dad sighed.
“Ok, lets listen to the long Shabbat Seder THEN let’s eat!”
Brendan loved the seder! Whenever Mrs. Weiss talked for a long time in class he always saw Brendan drawing pictures of his dog, because he was bored. But tonight, he listened so intently Noah had to remind him that it was ok to eat a piece of matzah after the hamotzi! That may have been the first time Brendan forgot to eat!
When the gefilte fish came out Noah whispered “you don’t have to eat that.”
“Thanks,” Brendan replied. But besides that everything else looks delicious!
Both boys had three helpings of mom’s charosets which made her feel great. Since it was Elijah’s birthday he got to ask the Four Questions.” Feeling generous he let Noah ask the last one. Unfortunately, that was the one question Noah forgot how to recite. Oops.
“Ok boys, first we look for the afikomen then it’s Yom huledek sameach for Elijah, and cake time!” Grandma announced.
“Watch out boys.” Noah declared, “I’m wearing my lucky Spider Man shirt.” It’s gonna help me find the afikomen!
“I brought my special afikomen searching goggles!.” Brendan declared. “Plus, I googled random places Jewish families may hide their matzas! Did you know one family hid it on the roof?”
After searching for five minutes Elijah found it under the sofa.
“How’d you do that?” Noah asked.
“Well, it’s my birthday. And I’m ten! Three more years of search experience.”
After receiving his ten dollars he slipped Noah and Brendan each a dollar. Noah wasn’t sure whether to feel insulted or honored.
After singing happy birthday in both English and Hebrew it was time for the cake. Each boy took two heaping scoops of chocolate ice cream and a small sliver of the cake. Grandma looked at them.
“Why such a small piece boys?” “Eat!!”
Carefully Noah took a bite. Brendan looked at him and followed.
Elijah had already finished his piece and reached for a second. “This is delicious!” He declared.” “It tastes like almonds, chocolate and…. Love! Happy birthday to me! Pass the ice cream.”
Grandma looked at the boys mom.
“Lucille, you will soon have a pre teen. Who eats like one!”
Their mom laughed.
“I’ve noticed. But why does Noah eat like a teen?”
“Hey, that cake was really good.” Brendan exclaimed. “I didn’t even have to pretend to like it.” The night had cleared up after the rainy day and the boy were outside in jackets shooting baskets, while waiting for Brendan’s parents to pick him up.
“Did you like the Seder?” Noah asked.
“Loved it. Hey, do you want to come over for Easter on Sunday? Probably not to church because it’s super early. Mom likes the sunrise services. But after, for dinner.”
“I’ll have to ask my parents. We are keeping Passover, or the grown ups are. The kids don’t have to. I try to be good. I ate a few Ritz crackers last year.”
“Wow,” Brendan said. If I was going to wreck Passover on bread I’d eat a yeasty cupcake!”
Noah laughed. “None in the house. At least now mom and grandma are going to make all of their Passover cakes with almond flour and not that yucky matzah meal. Future Passover desserts have been saved!”
“I had fun tonight.” Said Brendan. I didn’t know Passover was about being free. And it’s cool you guys know some Hebrew. I don’t know any.”
“It’s not too hard.” Noah replied. “Mom said it’s important to learn another language when you are young because your brain is young and tender. Or something like that. My mom teaches Hebrew at the temple. She used to live in Israel when she was young. Before us.”
“My mom went to Ireland.” Brendan replied. “When she was young. We both have moms who went to other countries. Cool. The food was delicious and your family is nice but the best part about this dinner, like mom told me, it’s so good to learn about other cultures. Can I tell you a secret?”
“Sure.” Noah replied.
“I told Andrew I was going to go to the seder at your house. I told him you were different because you celebrated Passover and not Easter. Andrew said no, you are not, we are all the same, nobody is different. But you guys are different. You go to temple, you eat different foods, you say different prayers. But I think that’s awesome! I learned a lot tonight. When I heard you and Elijah speak Hebrew, I thought you were smart. When I heard your dad and grandpa recite Hebrew I thought they were REALLY smart. It’s not everyday you hear Hebew and eat matza, but not gefilte fish! Not even sure if my dog would touch that, and she eats out of the garbage!”
The boys laughed.
“Brendan, can I tell you a secret too?”
“When you went to the bathroom I told my dad I was a little nervous about you coming to our seder. Because it IS different. If you’ve never been to one it’s a lot of new stuff. Lots of new food and words and stories. Sometimes I worry kids at school think I’m weird because we are Jewish.”
“Are you kidding?” Brendan replied. “I think that’s awesome! I don’t think people think it’s weird that you’re Jewish and if they do they should open their minds and stomachs because Passover is one cool holiday. The seder was kinda long. But it wasn’t that bad, you get to eat a little in between and grandma’s cake was worth the wait! Yum.”
“Yeah, we eat a lotta good food and have a lotta fun. You should come to the Purim carnival next year.”
‘What’s Purim?” Brendan asked.
“Well, we read the Megillah Esther, give to the needy, and eat SO much candy!!!!
“I’m in!” Brendan exclaimed.

* * *

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