7. Don’t bring challah as a gift. Challah is kryptonite to a seder, as dietary law calls for the traditional corrugated cardboard known as matzoh on Passover. As the Jewish people escaped slavery so quickly, they had no time to wait for their bread to rise, so they grabbed what they could: the unleavened dough. According to Jewish mysticism, leavened products symbolize inflated ego and arrogance, while matzoh represents humility and suspension of the self. Now, matzoh has come a long way since its first appearance as the dietary staple of those fleeing Israelites. In an age where carbs are the enemy, matzoh has become the new bagel and can often be very tasty. Modern varieties include Israeli matzoh, whole wheat matzoh, spelt matzoh, organic matzoh, pizza matzoh, and yes, even the “everything” matzoh studded with poppy seeds, onion, garlic, and salt.
8. Don’t assume that a request to “lean to the left” has anything to do with politics. No, this isn’t about Occupy demonstrations. An important part of the seder that many people aren’t aware of is the “leaning.” The act of reclining evokes a person of leisure, one who has time to dine without worrying about getting up. Leaning at the seder symbolizes the fact that we were once slaves in Egypt and are now free, and so our posture should mirror our liberated status. However, if you’re still leaning by the fourth cup of wine, you might have to start thinking about the dry cleaner.
9. Your rabbi does not know the secret formula for Coca-Cola. Have you ever noticed the Coca-Cola bottles with yellow caps that seem to materialize with almost biblical precision every March and April? Well, it’s not a marketing shtick, but rather a “kosher for Passover” version of the popular beverage. Jews cannot consume leavened foods during Passover, and this includes foods containing fermented grain, such as the high-fructose corn syrup used to sweeten sodas. Enter the Coca-Cola Company, which created a real-sugar alternative to the iconic beverage. Pepsi and Sprite are also now available in kosher varieties, but have no fear if you’re not a soda fan; coconut water is also kosher (phew).
10. You can’t DVR Passover. I once heard the story told of a conversation between a college student and his rabbi. The student says, “I know tomorrow is the seder, but there’s also a college football game, and it’s going to be a great game. Rabbi, I’ve got to watch my team’s game on TV.” The rabbi responds, “That’s what DVRs are for.” The delighted student replies, “You mean I can TiVo the seder?”
Rabbi Simcha Weinstein is a best-selling author who recently was voted “New York’s Hippest Rabbi” by PBS Channel 13. He chairs the religious affairs committee at Pratt Institute and recently published his latest book, Shtick Shift: Jewish Humor in the 21st Century.