Our last hours of bread/pasta/rice/normal food eating freedom had finally arrived, and we needed to go out with a bang before the first night of Passover began. With the holiday rapidly approaching there was not much time to go back into Paris (which wasn’t a problem since we had spent the last two days exploring the city), so we opted for a meal much closer to home… CHINESE BUFFET!!!! Right next to Stephane’s house is an “all you can eat” (and they mean ALL you can eat), Chinese buffet that would blow anyone’s mind! I mean it really doesn’t matter what type of food is being served, it automatically tastes better in France. For 11 Euro (15 dollars), we had all the noodles, rice, sushi, meet, appetizers, and desserts that we could possibly want! It was the perfect place to completely stuff our faces full of non kosher for Passover food before the holiday began.
Knowing that Stephane keeps pretty strict kosher, I didn’t want to offend him by eating the seafood that was available, but even he made an exception to eat meat out (something he almost never does in France), and he was fine with me eating the shrimp and calamari! I did, however, promise to not take anything with pork. We have a sort of silent understanding that when we get married I will say goodbye to non kosher food (at least in the home), but because I grew up not keeping kosher, the transition has been a bit tough. Luckily he is a little more lenient with seafood than he is with pork (which is such a shame because the ham in France looks DIVINE!!!!). After two big plates full of food, and a dessert plate filled with ice cream and beignets, it was time to go home, nap (after that meal nobody could move a muscle), and then shower and get ready for the chag (holiday). I do have to say this, I have probably eaten more food on this trip that I have in my entire life, and when I return home to Israel I don’t think I’ll eat for a solid week!
After a few good hours of rest, it was time to make our way to Natalie’s family’s house for the chag. Since this was my first Seder in France I had no idea what to expect, but Natalie’s parents, like Stephane’s, are Moroccan and Tunisian, so I knew I was in for some very, very tasty food! I attended Stephane’s family Seder last year in Ashdod, but I don’t remember much of it since at that point I was still in my early-ish stages of Hebrew and I spent most of the time praying no one would talk to me, so this was going to be my first real, intimate Sephardic Seder experience.
When we arrived everyone was already gathered in the salon of Natalie’s family’s French style apartment. The table was beautifully set, drinks and snack littered any free table space, and thankfully Natalie’s grandmother’s sister, who was in attendance, lived in Israel for a while so I had another person I could speak Hebrew with! Unfortunately everyone else still only spoke French, but they were so great to include me as much as they could. I even spoke a little here and there!
The ceremony was relatively similar to what we used to do, however, it was a bit shorter, what we would say in English they said in French (though most of the ceremony was done in Hebrew and Stephane and I even read some paragraphs), and there were some Sephardic traditions that added some real color to the event! My particular favorite was when Natalie’s mom took the big, central Seder plate and placed it over each person’s head while the grandmother’s did the traditional Arabic “la la la la la”. It was quite a scene, but very fun.
This Passover wasn’t the easiest for me, however. Passover was always YOUR holiday, and I remembered that my favorite times growing up took place around your Seder table. I remember the songs we would sing, the Hagaddah we would use that had your writing scribbled all over it, how good the house always smelled, and even your innovated hiding places for the afikomen that would result in Elana and me walking away with some money in the end when we finally found it! This is the first Passover without you, and everything from the ceremony, to the family atmosphere, even the taste of Matzah reminded me of you. Stephane could tell that something was wrong, and I had to muster up a lot of strength not to start crying in the middle of the Seder. I didn’t think it would go over to well to burst into tears and then not be able to explain to any of them why I was upset. I held it together well enough but I don’t think I’ve ever missed you this much. I so much wish you were here so I could tell you all of this in person, because I know how much you loved hearing about all of my many adventures, but I have to believe you are up there living each moment with me as it happens. At least I hope you are.
I feel like the Seder ended as quickly as it began, and before I knew it we were on our way back home. Despite the sadness it was a beautiful evening filled with a lot of love and a many laughs, and I carried you with me every second of the evening.
I love you forever and always and miss you every second of every day.
Until we meet again <3,