Once Upon a Passover
Matzah balls floated like celestial bodies in chicken soup. Its electrons danced with delectable aromas. Sadie inhaled. ‘Let’s have some now,’ she said to her pregnant daughter Zelda. ‘I’ll pass out from hunger if I wait for Aaron to finish reading the Haggadah.’
Zelda dug a crater into a matzah ball and brought it to her lips. ‘They’ve defied gravity Mom. Light and delicious.’
Aaron, wearing the tie saved for special occasions, opened the door. ‘What’s this? Eating before reading the Passover Haggadah. It’s a sacrilege.’
‘It’s just soup, Aaron.’
‘Everything’s ready, Dad,’ Zelda said. ‘The brisket, the tzimmes. the roasted chicken with gribenes is crisper than bacon.’
‘Nothing’s crisper than bacon,’ Aaron said.
‘And how would you both know?’ Sadie asked.
Zelda rolled her eyes. Aaron shrugged and said, ‘I don’t see a place for Elijah?’
Sadie pointed to a bridge-table near the hall. ‘I put Elijah there. The table’s too crowded when your cousins come.’
Aaron frowned. ‘Elijah is supposed to sit at the head of the table. He’s the honored guest who announces the arrival of the Messiah.’
‘But he never comes,’ Sadie sighed.
‘Maybe you didn’t see him.’
‘That’s what they said when I was a child. OK. Kids at the bridge-table.’
The front door opened.
Irving and his family piled in. ‘You’re early,’ Aaron said.
‘This year we didn’t want to be hungry while you read the Haggadah,’ Irving said. ‘So, we stopped for Chinese before we came. Moo Shu Pork doesn’t stick to your ribs like brisket.’
Sadie frowned. ‘Moo Shu Pork on Passover? God will be angry.’
‘Not the God of the Chinese,’ Irving said. ‘And they have more people.’
Finally, everyone sat at the table and Aaron began the service. After ten minutes Sadie said, ‘Move it, Aaron.’ David drank his wine. ‘It is supposed to last for four cups.’
David pouted. ‘It will be bad luck if I don’t drink three more.’
‘It’s symbolic,’ Sadie said.
‘Why when I want something it’s symbolic?’
She pushed a red manicured finger into David’s chest. ‘I’ll show you symbolic!’
Aaron said, ‘If I cut the ten plagues to five what five should I cut?’
‘Keep the locusts,’ Irving said. ‘No locusts. No Passover.’
‘And keep the frogs,’ his wife said. ‘Their legs are delicious sautéed in garlic butter.’
Suddenly a strange green light illuminated the room. Everyone glowed. Aaron got up peered through a window and saw a pewter grey ship sitting on his front lawn. ‘If I didn’t know better I’d say it’s a flying saucer.’
‘Since when did you become a maven on flying saucers?’ Sadie asked.
‘It says—Flying Saucer: Property of Elijah the Prophet from Tau Ceti.’
‘What’s Tau Ceti?’ Sadie asked.
‘Tau Ceti is a super Earth exoplanet that orbits a G-type star. Its mass is 3.93 Earths and takes 162.9 days to complete one orbit of its star.’
‘And what makes you so smart?’ Irving put in.
‘The small print on the side.’
Everyone went outside and looked.
Irving’s voice rose. ‘Do you realize if this is what we think it is we might be making first contact. We’ll be famous. Better, we might get rich!’
Aaron said. ‘Whatever, it’s ruining my lawn. We’ll call someone later to have it removed. Let’s finish the service and eat.’
A man who looked like someone you thought you knew sat at the head of the table. He wore a well-tailored blue suit, white shirt, blue tie with six-pointed gold stars. Sadie closed her eyes and hoped when she opened them he would be gone.
Aaron, distressed he didn’t take his class in how to spot a homicidal maniac more seriously said, ‘Who are you?’
‘I’m Elijah. You invite me every Passover. Here, take my card.’
Aaron looked and read: Elijah: Prophet: Specialty: Passover.
‘Everyone wants to see me in a robe and sandals but I prefer to keep up with the times.’
‘Nice suit,’ Aaron said. ‘Ralph Lauren?’
‘Saville Row. But actually, I prefer this. Then in an eye blink he wore ripped jeans and a white T shirt that said Happy Passover.’
Irving’s daughter, who up to that moment wished she could be elsewhere, peeked from under her auburn tresses, battered her eyelashes and smiled at him.
‘Parlour trick,’ Aaron said mixing curiosity with caution. ‘How come we never saw you before?’
‘I use a cloaking device. Santa and I share it. It’s out of season for him. People in ancient days saw me.’
‘Yeah,’ Irving said. ‘All the good stuff in the Bible seems to have happened in ancient days.’
‘Later, when people wanted autographs and pictures I couldn’t enjoy my cup of wine, so I activated the cloak.’
Brows wrinkled. Elijah continued. ‘It’s not easy being a prophet, a saint, an immortal being? Everyone wants favours. The critters from the kibbutz near Betelgeuse love wine and expect me to bring them several cases after all the seders. And the children on Arcturus, who look like your oysters, want toys from Santa. Anyone want winged sandals? I can get them wholesale. Elijah holds up his arm. ‘And now I have a Rolex.’
Irving said, ‘I’m wearing one just like it.’ He pushed his sleeve up. ‘Hey, where did it go?’
‘God moves in mysterious ways,’ Elijah said.
‘I don’t think God needs a Rolex,’ Irving said.
‘He still likes sacrifices. This is a token sacrifice.’
Irving lowered his arm.
‘We usually exist as a quantum wave in superposition being near many places at the same time. That’s how we are able to reach so many families in one night. But when someone observes us, we become a particle. Someone here must have observed me: caught my eye.’
‘I thought I saw food fly out of the Chinese restaurant,’ Irving said.
‘Bingo!’ Elijah said pointing to Irving. ‘Checkmate.’
Sadie, not knowing what to say asked, ’Do you want your cup of wine now?’
‘But none of that sweet stuff. No one ever drank that while wandering in the desert. I’ll have merlot. This night would be different from all other nights if I had dinner. No one gives me food: no nuts no canapés. Santa gets Christmas cookies; roast turkey; sometimes Beef Wellington. I tried switching jobs with him but he said lox didn’t compare to lobster.’
Aaron brought the merlot and poured Elijah a cup. Sadie placed a steaming bowl of matzah ball soup in front of him. The aroma of chicken broth going back to antiquity permeated the room. He inhaled its soothing sent, dipped his spoon in, tasted and swooned.
‘Ah, the real thing. Not what I get on Tau Ceti. Come back with me, Sadie, and teach them how you make it? I’ll give you almost eternal life in exchange for your recipe. Even the restaurant at the end of the universe could learn from you.’
Sadie said. ‘You sound like the movie Cocoon. I’ll give you some to take home. I don’t want eternal life if it comes with arthritis.’
Elijah sighed. ‘Few realize, that movie was a documentary.’
‘You look like us,’ Aaron said.
‘Immortal beings have the ability to shape shift. You would never recognize Santa when it’s not Christmas. As long as I’m here, I’d like to enlighten you about your version of Passover.’
Aaron picked up a Haggadah. ‘We are enlightened! We’re called “the people of the book” and here, here it is written.’
Elijah smiled. ‘By people who wanted to sell scrolls. But dinner first, commentary afterwards.’
After dinner everyone moved from dining room to living room, sank into the upholstery and turned their eyes toward Elijah who now had a salt and pepper coloured beard and wore a dark brown robe. ‘I thought a change of clothes set a better mood,’ his voice sliding into a deep baritone. ‘And it came to pass…’
‘Why does stuff like this usually start with “and it came to pass?”’ Aaron asked.
‘Poetic license. “And it came to pass,” appears some 727 times in the King James Version.’
Irving said, ‘We don’t use the King James version.’
Elijah shrugged and continued. ‘The Martians needed a more fruitful planet because their seas were evaporating and the third planet from the sun, that they previously thought too hot and too wet for intelligent life, now with their options closing, looked like a promised land. But after close analysis, they saw most of its inhabitants didn’t want to share their spaces with other inhabitants making it unlikely that they would share their planet with them even if they brought gifts and asked nicely. Finally, after googling “top non-threatening beings of the universe,” a human baby surfaced as number one, as long as you weren’t its parents who usually worried about it forever from the second it was born.’
‘So, Moses was a Martian, disguised as a human baby,’ Aaron said. ‘That’s like superman: a being from another planet comes to Earth ensconced as Clark Kent.’
‘But Clark couldn’t be near kryptonite or he would lose his strength,’ Elijah said. ‘And Moses learned he couldn’t eat dairy and meat products together or shellfish and pork or he would lose his powers.’
‘So, a bacon cheeseburger for Moses was akin to kryptonite for Superman,’ Aaron deduced.
‘Precisely! And to ensure that this would never happen to them they created dietary laws called Kosher laws that restricted these things.’
‘Did Moses see God’s face?’ Zelda asked.
‘He saw a being from the Soup Bubble Nebula in Cygnus who was cruising the area. When Moses asked if he was God he said, “I’d like to be. But it’s too much responsibility.”’
‘Close enough,’ Moses cried.
‘And the burning bush?’ Aaron asked.
‘Works on batteries. Santa always gets a big order for them. At Christmas.’
‘And the parting of the Dead Sea?’ Irving asked.
‘Strong winds push water to one side making it possible to cross on the shallow side. It sometimes happens other places like Lake Erie.’
‘Told you we didn’t need so much commentary,’ Sadie said. ‘A few words. Ten minutes tops. So, was Moses the only Martian who came?’
‘Oh no. Martians disguised as a tribe of beautiful intelligent people followed. They lured Moses to an oasis that made Heavenly Pizza and gave free manna toppings and free delivery. Everyone wanted in.’
Zelda patted her belly. ‘Am I carrying a Martian?’
Elijah popped a chocolate covered macaroon into his mouth. ‘Hmmm, real cocoanut. Not like the stuff they grow on Rigel Kantaurus that tastes like hay. Delicious.’
‘Well…’ Aaron said.
‘We’re all related. It’s one big universe including all its parallel parts. Everything bouncing from wave to particle and back to wave. To quote your poet Walt Whitman who today has incarnated as a Hasidic obstetrician, “Out of the cradle endlessly rocking.”’
‘No one is going to believe what you told us let alone parallel universes with parallel Passovers where we could still be slaves unto pharaoh,’ Sadie said. ‘Besides, what should we do with all these Haggadah books?’
‘Santa can give them as Christmas presents. Everyone likes a good story. But a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.’
‘Especially for kids that get thrown out of school,’ David piped.
‘And a lot of knowledge is not dangerous?’ Irving asked. ‘What about Schrödinger’s cat? Could it have been a hamster? Did you have a Bar Mitzvah? Who paid?’
‘Ah, questions and more questions whose answers might bend the space time continuum.’
‘Surely you’re jesting,’ Irving said.
Elijah smiled. ‘Though I’m not limited by time and space as you are, it’s time to move on. Check your watch Irving.’
Irving looks at this wrist. ‘It’s back!’
‘Never really left,’ Elijah said. ‘An aspect of quantum physics.’
Irving tapped his wrist. ‘Quantum physics has an answer with no answer to everything these days.’
‘Do you mind if we take your picture?’ Aaron asked.
Elijah nods, runs his hand over his hair to smooth it.
Everyone gets their phone, snaps a photo and looks. Aaron gasps. ‘I’ve one of a four headed octopus with red scales.’
‘Oops! Try now.’
Everyone snaps again.
Elijah checks Aaron’s camera. ‘Better.’
‘But no one would believe that photo is Elijah,’ Irving said.
‘It’s not. It’s a computer-generated composite image of a middle-aged multi-racial human male. But I can add wings and a halo if you want.’
‘Forget it,’ Sadie said. She went into the kitchen and brought a large container of chicken soup and two dozen chocolate covered macaroons that she gave Elijah.
‘Do you really need to fly in a space ship?’ Aaron asked.
‘No. It’s a mystical illumination. But the razzle dazzle insures I’m taken more seriously and I and get more dinners.’
‘I thought you traveled in a chariot of fire,’ Irving said.
‘It was time for an upgrade. Besides chariots of fire are hot and uncomfortable.’
‘Shall we walk you out?’ Sadie asked.
‘No need.’ Then he kissed Sadie on both cheeks and gave everyone else a high five. ‘Adios amigos. Time to roll.’ He paused. ‘Is that still a hip expression?‘
‘I wouldn’t know,’ Aaron said. ‘I’m over the rolling age.’
For a moment nothing happened. And then it happened. He was gone.
Everyone ran outside. There was a grand silence. Nothing was there. The lawn looked greener and lusher than it ever looked. Then Aaron spotted a small bottle that he picked up. The label said ‘Miracle Grow.’ ‘Where did this come from?’
‘Probably a neighbour,’ Sadie said.
‘Or Tau Ceti,’ Irving said.
No one ever saw Elijah again. And no one revised the Haggadah. But each year when Sadie set a place for Elijah at the Passover table the wine, the soup, and macaroons vanished. AQ
Jackie Kingon – Once Upon a Passover