Passover, which begins tonight, is an emblematic Jewish holiday, because it involves a lot of reading and talking. Each spring, as commanded in the book of Exodus, we gather for a Seder with family and friends to recount the story of how Moses led his people out of slavery in Egypt. The prayer book we use, the Haggadah, comes in dozens of different versions, even though each of them ends the same. If you read aloud the entire Haggadah, the service passes in about the same time it would take to fly from New York to Iceland, especially if you sing "Dayenu," which has fifteen stanzas and lasts longer than a Philip Glass concert.
To children, Passover is usually a test of patience. Midway through, you get to bite on some Matzoh, which is a kind of ridged cardboard. A great meal has been prepared, but you can eat it only after you've suffered, nearly to the point Moses did.
My family, like many, did not read the Haggadah from beginning to end. Hebrew is read from right to left, and if you're reading a book written in Hebrew, you start in the back and move to the front. But my father didn't know this, because he had little religious training. So after my family gathered at the Passover table, my father would open the Haggadah to the front, and read the first words he saw: "The Seder ends." And then we would eat. Once word spread that my family's Seder lasted less than a minute, people came from all over the country to celebrate Passover with us.
Not long ago, I became dissatisfied with the lack of great Passover songs, and I decided to write one. The accuracy of this song -- called "They Tried To Kill Us, We Survived, Let's Eat" -- is compromised by my shocking ignorance of actual history. But it is an accurate reflection of the Jewish education I experienced, and if nothing else, the song has far fewer verses than "Dayenu."
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