Last night was the first night of Passover. Tomorrow is Easter. In honor of both holidays, and in memory of my father, I’m going to share one of my favorites of my dad’s stories. Here it is:
Once, when I was about six or seven, I asked Mama, my grandmother, about Passover. So. Mama’s Passover story: there were Jews in Egypt. Their working conditions as brickmakers were terrible, so they sent the union strike committee to see Pharaoh, the Egyptian boss. One of their organizers, Moishe, ein groise starker [a big toughguy], made an enormous tsimel [a noise] and said “If the brickmakers get a fair deal, you’ll get seven prizes. If not, you’ll have a ganz’ tsoris [big trouble]: seven strikes.” To which Papa, my grandfather, added sotto voce to me (but loudly enough for Mama to hear), “Moishe zug’ tzu die Mitzracher, ‘Shtup es in toches!‘” [Moses said to the Egyptian, ‘Up yours!’] At which point Mama (in front of whom nobody used such language) yelled at him, he winked at me, and my Passover education was complete. At school, and from my Swedish friend Leonart, I heard about “The Tomb at Easter.” At first I thought it must be Moses in the tomb. Then I figured out that at Easter it wasn’t Moses but Lenin who was in The Tomb. When I was eight, I learned it wasn’t Lenin, either. Leonart explained that it was the guy nailed on the cross which was hanging on the wall over our friend Fredo’s bed. Our family holiday was May Day: Workers’ Easter, Workers’ Passover.