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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Rocking Passover Sedar!

Last night was the second night, thus the second Passover sedar. The word "sedar" means "order." We read the Haggadah (spelling?) which describes Moses leading the Jewish slaves out of Egypt. They'd been building those pyramids for Pharoah for 400 years and were way tired!

Because we have a small extended family, we always invite friends over to celebrate. This time we blended several new friends from various walks of life with a few "old" friends. What was cool was that although each person was Jewish by heritage, their personal recollections of their childhood Passover sedar experiences were totally different.

In the 1960s and '70s, Reform Jews grew up reading from the free but boring Maxwell House Coffee Haggadahs. Today, those are still available but really dry. Over the years, our family was fortunate to accumulate some beautifully illustrated Haggadahs with insightful discussion questions printed in the margin of each page. For example, "In what ways are we slaves today?"

But the rocking part of the sedar was the naming of the ten plgues G-d visited upon the Egyptians when Pharoah refused to let the Jews go. We distributed plastic frogs, cows, lions, lice, hail, etc., along with masks my artist friend, Tobi Abrams, made to describe each plague! Each of the ten participants held up that particular item when it was named. It brought some levity to the sedar. Definitely a new custom for everyone in attendance!

To our family, the whole idea of the sedar is not something to rush through so we can eat, but rather an hour-long oasis in which to reflect about our lives through various discussion questions threaded through the service. COMMENTS

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Yesterday was Literary Agent Query Day

Yesterday I'm proud to report I e-mailed out five queries to literary agents regarding representation for my suspense novel Window of Guilt (87,000 wds.) My first published suspense novel, Deadly Choices, only ran 212 pages, but the new manuscript comes in at 367. While Deadly Choices is about a female paramedic on chicago's West Side who kidnaps the baby she just delivered and gives it to her best friend, a Born Again christian, to raise (See, the character-driven Window of Guilt is about a health insurance adjuster's wife who discovers a dead body on the front lawn of her summer home. While she runs in to phone the police, the body disappears. Her hubby says she's nutso. Unfortunately, so do the cops. So she hooks up with a female detective to solve the case.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Missing Purim

Yesterday I dressed up in a pencil lead gray sweater decorated with BLING! I fully intended on attending the Megillah reading at the temple and planned on playing the part. The Megillah is the Story of Queen Esther; she convinces King Akashvayros to prohibit Haman, his adviser, from slaying all the Jews in the land. We're talking biblical days here, but heck, that theme still prevails. Anyway, Esther's Uncle Mordechai is the conduit in this story. After learning about the scheduled destruction, he tells the Jewish queen to 1) confess to her husband that she, in fact, is Jewish, and 2) fulfill the above task without putting her own life in jeopardy. A daunting task for a girl probably under the legal drinking age.

Esther fears for her life, but her uncle insists the king loves her and would do nothing to shorten her life. He tells her to think beyond herself and do G-d's will, which is to save the Jewish people. To ease her way into the king's most loving graces, Esther throws a three-day dinner party. The king really loves to eat and drink!
Esther also invites Haman as the guest of honor. she asks him what one thing he would do to his nemesis -- except in those days, she said "one who plots against you." In this case, we're talking Uncle Mordechai.

Full of himself, as well as food and drink, Haman answers that he would ride in a golden chariot, dragging the hated person by rope through the streets. At that point, Queen Esther confides in the king what will befall herself and her people should he not intervene. King A. takes immediate action against Haman.

To this day, people gaily dress up in costume, listen to the reading of the Megillah, and engage in hearty food and drink. They also deliver Shalach Monos (sp.?); goodies to the poor. And they eat Homentaschen (sp.?); three-corner jelly-filled cookies reminiscent of the Haman's hat. They also drown out the evil man's name by shaking greggors during the Megillah reading. Kind of like "pooh, pooh" when you've swallowed an insect.

But I didn't want to attend because at this time of year, the temple is filled with little tykes and adults in Halloween-type costumes. I was coming straight from work, but more honestly, I just didn't want to engage in this play world. My kids are too old for this frivolity, too.

Instead I spent the whole day worrying about not attending. My guilty mind-set finally eased when a good friend dropped off some Shalach Monos of her own for me: a 1-ounce container of bubble water, two cookies, and a sprinkling of Hershey kisses in a colorful Chinese take-out container! The gift was supposed to be anonymous, but somehow she knew my soul needed that "lift." In a note, she assured me she'd already attended two Megillah readings, enough for both of us.

Better luck next year! Have you ever felt guilty about not attending a temple or church service? How did you handle it??