Passover. The Jewish holiday of freedom. You know the story of how the Israelites, led by that beau hunk Moses, threw off the shackles of bondage, faced off with Pharaoh, unleashed 10 plagues on Egypt and were finally allowed to return to Las Vegas…I mean the Promised Land.
As a father of four young children in Jerusalem, I experienced my own personal eight-day festival recently, full of annoying afflictions that stretched my nerves to their absolute limits – and then a smidge more.
Please note that this list is not in order of severity, chronology or any other criteria. Rather, it’s a quickly yet lovingly assembled scrapbook of madness.
Plague 1: Greeting Cards
This time of year always reminds me how many people I’ve met once in my life who I’ve never met again. The digital age has made it all too easy for job recruiters, mobile network operators and insurance company representative to send generic ‘Happy Passover’ cards to anyone whose contact info was at any point captured and stored in a database. But my favourite digitized greeting this year was from the Chabad Orthodox Jewish movement: “Happy Passover! The Messiah’s always got your back. One love, Rabbi Schneerson and the gang.”
Plague 2: Spewage
Passover 2019 began as the sun set over a lovely early spring evening in a suddenly mellow Jerusalem. Around midnight, my wife and I were woken by a soft retching sound emanating from our daughters’ bedroom. The night of a thousand blown chunks had begun. As we entered the wee small hours, our second daughter and two sons took turns laying waste to bed sheets, pyjamas and large swaths of wall. Matza overdose? Verdicts pending…
Plague 3: Concussion of the Fourth Born Son
The final plague hurled by God was the deliciously gruesome death of the first-born Egyptian sons. After that nifty piece of savagery, Pharaoh finally relented and allowed the Israelites to depart from slavery. No less dramatic, my two-and-a-half-year-old son got knocked upside the head by his seven-year-old sister. The crime occurred on April 22, at approximately 1:30 pm at Sokolov Park. My eldest was flying high on a swing when her baby brother ran up to her for a hug. Little boy wonder took it on the chin, collapsed and then bounced back up like a rubber gumby doll. His father took a bit longer to recover…
Plague 4: Overdraft for Three Weeks
You may recall ancient plague #9: three days of darkness. I’m sure that total darkness covering an entire country must have been terrifying to Egypt’s suddenly blind inhabitants. I would equate that heightened level of fear to what we felt every time my wife and I whipped out a credit card to buy pizza pies, tickets to museums or – the big one – rent a couple of cars for a couple of days. We managed to survive the holiday, but it’ll probably take us a good 40 years of wandering through the desert of debt to reach the promised land of pension hood.
Plage 5: Claws
Another park-related plague occurred on the second day of Passover. The second Biblical plague was frogs. God made the Nile overflow with them. Slimy amphibians hopped into Pharaoh’s palace, bedroom and bed. Meanwhile, at Jerusalem’s Liberty Bell Park, my other son tussled with a one-eyed alley cat and came back with a face full of claw marks. The oldest of our twins came back from the fracas bloodied and giggling with delight. His father took a bit longer to recover…
Plague 6: Blandness
No Biblical equivalent to this one. My Facebook feed was overrun with posts extolling heavenly virtues such as sterilizing utensils, scrubbing floors and burning any food product made from wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt that has come into contact with water and allowed to ferment and rise. Exposure to toxic amounts of such self-righteousness made me break out in festering boils.
Plague 7: Carbs
The very first plague against Pharaoh took place when God’s hand struck the Nile River and changed it into blood. The fish in the Nile died and the river reeked so badly that Egyptians had to switch to bottled water. Still, this apocalyptic episode didn’t prevent people from enjoying a low-carb diet of meat, poultry, eggs and some non-starchy vegetables. Before Passover, I had a cordial, even friendly relationship with carbs. But having to gouge on a bumper crop of potatoes left me bloated and wobbly. Jogging four miles up and down some choice Jerusalem hills after the holiday never felt so good.
Plague 8: Beetles
The eight ‘sign and marvel’ given by God was the agricultural blight of locusts. “…I will bring locusts into your country tomorrow. They will cover the face of the ground so that it cannot be seen. They will devour what little you have left after the hail, including every tree that is growing in your fields.” That’s deep. Fast forward to 2019 BCE: a large plague of black beetles took Israel by storm. Admittedly, this happened immediately after Passover. Still, waking up with a colony of Calosoma Olivieri crawling up my leg earned those crunchy critters a place on this plague-infested list.
Plague 9: Narcolepsy
The fourth plague to afflict the Egyptians was the unleashing of wild animals on the Egyptian countryside that destroyed everything in their path. But in Goshen the Israelites slept easy, as the rampaging beasts stayed away from that particular province. Back in our apartment, just staying awake was a beastly affair. In between chasing four unleashed pixies across Jerusalem during the day, overdosing on french fries (see plague #7 above) in the afternoon and imbibing a bit too much dry red wine in the evening, I frequently dozed off in mid-conversation during nightly conversations with family and friends. No one complained, which makes me question how good a conversationalist I am.
Plague 10: Whine
My eldest daughter cracks this top 10 list for the second time. Her incessant, incoherent, irritating drones frequently induced an outbreak of the cold sweats and dry heaves during Pesach. I would rather have been afflicted with the third plague, lice, than have to endure another second of whining. For relief, I ran over to my neighbour who happens to be a carpenter. I begged him to turn on his table saw. That high-pitched screech was music to my ears.
As of this writing, I’m a free man. The holiday of freedom’s shackles have been removed and now it’s my children who are back in bondage: school. They’re strong, sturdy kids and should be fine. Besides, there’s nothing like a bit of mental, spiritual and emotional anguish to put some gravel in the guts and spit in the eye, don’t you think?