Why does love come to mind Monday at sundown? I will tell you.
Chopping apples and walnuts for the ritual paste called charoset, the cinnamony fragrance takes me back nine years, when I was celebrating the Passover holiday with Chaim, the man I loved. Chaim Stern was a rabbi who wrote prayerbooks for the reform movement of Judaism. This includes the slim Haggadah prayerbook that thousands of families use at their holiday table, reading rituals and tales of Moses leading his people from oppression in ancient Egypt.
The seder meal is filled with symbols of that Exodus, featuring matzoh, the unleavened bread which sustained the Israelites in the desert. Guests read from the Haggadah before the matzoh ball soup and gefilte fish and brisket, and then, too full, after the fruit salad and macaroons.
The tablecloth stained with wine, children squirming, we read the words in Hebrew and English, sometimes responsively, and sometimes on our own. Words and prayers of the past.
But these words will remind me of my own past with the man who was my husband. Chaim was editing this book when we were living together - an unexpected romance coming soon after his wife had died. And so this Haggadah is dedicated to me in a hidden way -- as he wrote it: "For All My Beloved, living in me and living with me."
I will again look at the dedication and remember how he smiled at me when I first discovered it.
But the man smiling at my side this year will not be Chaim, who died in 2001. In fact, the man at my side is not Jewish, and this will be the first seder of his life.
He is now the man I love.
And so this Passover, the man I love will be reading and speaking words written by the man I loved.
Love often comes when you least expect it, often with someone you least expect. And this Passover I will be reminded that good men may not share religions or backgrounds, but they can share values and qualities.
And I think that Chaim would understand this and give his blessing to me, and to the wonderful man in my life and at my side this Passover.