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29 March 2010

Loosening My Religion

The Jewish holiday of Passover begins tomorrow.
Growing up that was a biggie for me.  Well actually, it was a biggie for my family.  We used to have a bunch of people over for the Seder dinners.
That’s when we had a big feast celebrating how the Hebrews escaped from enslavement in Egypt.
If you don’t believe, check Wikipedia.
My dad was a part-time Orthodox Jew, who made sure that we had all kosher foods in the house, separate plates for milk and meat and no shellfish of any kind.
Unless he was visiting Baltimore, where he loved the crab cakes.
That part always confused me.
I was raised with religion being a big part of our existence, just one line below sports on the list of priorities.
If you don’t believe me, maybe this will help.
October 2, 1978 – the second day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, one of the High Holidays.
The High Holidays are when you spend all day in the synagogue counting the minutes until the service ends.   
I mean you spend all day praying.
October 2, 1978 was also the day when the Yankees and Red Sox met in a one-game playoff to see who would advance to the real post-season and who would go home.
Of course staying home and watching the game was not an option.  The holiday was too important.
But so was the game.
These days you would probably see an iPhone strategically planted inside EVERY prayer book, but that was 1978 and Steve Jobs had not been invented yet.
So my dad did the next best thing.
He snuck a transistor radio into the synagogue and used a wired earphone, running up the front of his shirt to listen to the game as he prayed for forgiveness.
If you think that the people around him were embarrassed, guess again.
They were jealous.
And he was popular.
He must’ve been asked every couple of outs for an update.
I was only 11 at the time, so I don’t remember all the details, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the Rabbi even asked him the score at one point.
My father’s prayers were answered with Bucky Dent’s homer, leading his beloved Yankees to a 5-4 win.
So where was I?.... Oh yeah, Passover.
Well, despite my religious upbringing, religion is not a big part of my life anymore.
I definitely believe in God and definitely believe in most of that other stuff, but to be perfectly honest I don’t believe in spending my day in synagogue and I definitely don’t believe in keeping kosher.
Are you telling me that Moses would’ve passed on bacon if he would’ve woken up to the smell of it?
No way!
I have total respect for any religious person in ANY religion.
Whatever works for you is good by me.
But for me, I chose a different road to travel.
I married a woman who was raised Catholic, but like me she doesn’t have any interest in attending her church.
We have chosen to raise our kids with the religion of love.  
Deep down, I think that I care just enough about Judaism to not want to have my kids raised Catholic and my wife cares just enough about Catholicism to not want to raise the kids Jewish.
So we met in the middle.
We celebrate all of the holidays, especially the ones that have food as the centerpiece.
My favorite holiday is on December 26 each year.   I call it the Jewish Christmas.
That’s when we get all the best deals in the department stores.   Every Jew likes a good deal.
Even though my wife hasn’t really bought into the religious aspect of Judaism, she certainly has learned how to cook.
Her matzo ball soup is better than my mom’s.   She can cook a brisket like my Uncle Leo (if I had an Uncle Leo).  And the Hanukkah latkes…
…to die for.
I do my part as well.   You should hear me sing Jingle Bell Rock.
Passover kinda snuck up on me this year.  In fact, had I not almost run into a big box of Matzah Crackers at the grocery store this afternoon, I might’ve missed the holiday altogether.
If that near collision at the market doesn’t sound like a sign from up above, what does?
I brought up the upcoming holiday at dinner tonight, while we were enjoying a honey baked ham, and without any hesitation, my wife said that she would like to host a Passover Seder next weekend.
I’ll eat to that.

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