Friday, April 13, 2012

Bitter-Sweet Sandwich

Until I completely run out of Sarris candy and chocolate covered pretzels - I feel Easter topics are passible... so I might have a two hour window to share my thoughts.

This year we started the weekend by hosting a Passover Seder dinner. Call it a combination of my faulty memory - or the four glasses of wine - I hardly remembered last year's dinner. This left me woefully unprepared for and presently surprised by this year's meal.

We followed Wikipedia's suggestion to "invite guests, especially strangers" - so of the 13 people around our table, many hardly knew each other. We stuck to mostly jew-ish food and my people can pot luck! It was crowded (even with our couch moved to the kitchen), and it was divine!

We added our Christian twist by raffling off a giant painting of the Last Supper.
It was not as coveted as you'd think. I could not get rid of that thing.

I don't know what I enjoyed more the reverent parts of the haggadah we walked through in the beginning or lingering after dinner, laughing till my face hurt at the end. 

Our haggadah (and I suspect, most Seders) had a huge focus on putting the bad with the good. On remembering the times of sorrow while feeling the full hope of God's promise of a future. 
Here's a part quoted from our script:
"We will eat the sweet charoset with the bitter moror.
The contrasting elements serve to remind us that life is often a confusing mixture of
joy and sorrow, of bitter endings and sweet new beginnings. Its is not our goal to 
eliminate the negative experiences and pretend that life is all sweetness and happiness.
That is a futile task and finally dishonest. Rather our goal is to rejoice in the fact that
God works in all the circumstances of life."

It was so refreshing to acknowledge this truth in life. So often people ask me how I'm doing and they want to hear I'm better (as in "all better. everything's great") and the best I can say is "I'm okay." or laugh a little with "I've been worse." Its hard because people want a black or white answers. People live much more comfortably in one camp or another - when you ask about someone's relationship it's either "they're really great." or "they're having trouble." New moms - why must you be either "blissfully happy" or "really struggling"? Isn't it really true of all things that we live in the gray area of bitter and sweet at the same time. My life is hard - really hard and painful. My life is also beautiful and better than I could have imagined in so many ways. It takes cognitive dissonance to understand the answer to "how are you?"

During the Seder meal you take the sweet charoset (a honey/apple/wine mixture) and add it to bitter moror (usually horseradish) and you put it all on a matzah cracker to make a sandwich. You eat it together and you know - its not so bad.

After experiencing this transcendent Seder meal, I had to admit, it was kind of difficult for me to fully immerse myself in the traditional Easter events I had grown up with... on Good Friday, I had a hard time with being strictly sad, pensive, and mournful. Then there was a full weekend before I had to make myself fully happy, rejoicing, and sing-songy (He is risen! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!)

Excuse my blasphemy but I think from now on, I want to cry and laugh in the same evening and I want my good and bad on the same cracker.


  1. Agree, agree, agree. Life is seldom (if ever) all bad or all good. Somewhere along the way, we've lost the meaning of the word "okay". Life it just okay a lot of the time. And that's okay. If life was always great right now, what would we have to look forward to?

    1. Tim I love that thought. Because usually 'okay' is seen as 'not good' but the more I think about it, the more 'okay' feels really good - because its honest and true... and 'okay' is definitely 'not bad'

  2. Wow, I almost did a really similar post on how hard it is for me to get into the traditional Christian holidays, ones that demand that you feel certain ways. (I tried, but it just turned out wordy and rambling. Yours was much more succinct.) Deep down, I just resist working up tears on Good Friday, joy on Easter, and whatever at Christmas. I keep thinking "What's wrong with me? Am I that damaged from all those years working as a church programmer?"

    We had a Seder, too. And I must say, the Hillel sandwich was everybody's fav. Most went back for seconds. (Are you supposed to do that?) The secret was my awesome Charoset and some powerfully authentic horseradish. So good.

    1. The "hillel sandwich" I forgot the name entirely! Its so surprisingly good - when those two things should be horrible! I think its perfectly fine to go for seconds (at least at our make-shift seder) - Dylan ate the entire bowl of parsley dipped in salt water before we got to the next part in the haggadah and Neil sat in Elijah's lazy boy and drank his cup. So if we were wrong, we can all go down together.

      And really I'm with you on the manufactured feelings!! I don't think anything's wrong with you. (or somethings wrong with both of us!) I usually feel so many things at once - tired being the most predominate of them all - that Easter didn't resonate with me nearly as much as passover did (even though I thought about Jesus at both) - as always though - thanks for sharing!