Disorder at the Sedar
Happy Passover, Willow
by Sam James
"I forget, why am
I doing this again?" Buffy asked Willow and Tara as the three girls neared Willow's parents' house.
"Well," Willow hesitated. "I haven't exactly told everyone about Tara and me, but wanted her here and since you're my roommate and Mom might remember you're my friend it would look odd if she were here and you weren't so I thought..."
"Willow, spare the babble," Buffy said. "That's why you
invited me. But why am I
Willow looked at Tara; Tara looked at Willow. "Free food?" Tara put in.
"Home-cooked," Willow added.
"That's it!" Buffy smiled, her mouth watering. UC Sunnydale was not known for its culinary delights even considering the palates of the typical college student.
"Bunny!" Willow's mother greeted them at the door. "How's your mother?"
"She's fine," Buffy had long since given up correcting Willow's mom.
"And you must be Dara, Willow's told me so much about you."
Tara shot an accusing look at Willow who simply shrugged. The three entered the house.
Willow's house seemed completely transformed. The dining room table had the extra leaves in and the special Passover china was laid out on a pure white tablecloth. Although Willow's family did not keep strictly kosher according to the ancient Jewish dietary laws that forbade mixing milk with meat and required the slaughtering of animals in ritualistic fashion, they did keep the special laws about what could be eaten on Passover and so had special dishes that were never contaminated with bread. At the center of the table was a special cup of wine for the prophet Elijah, whom tradition said would announce the coming of the Messiah.
Buffy soon saw why Willow wanted her and Tara there. The Doctors Rosenberg kept talking about Willow's older brothers - she gathered that one had a thriving medical practice in New York while the other was clerking for a state supreme court judge in Massachusetts. But no one talked about Willow's achievements. Whenever a cousin or aunt asked Willow what she was doing and learned that she was attending UC Sunnydale, they asked with surprise, "Didn't you get into Harvard?" or quickly changed the subject.
Soon the polite chit-chat, or what Xander had warned Buffy was the unexpected Yiddish Inquisition, ended and the family gathered around the table. Willow's grandfather, who everyone called Zadie, started the seder with the kiddush, the blessing over the wine. "Is this like Purim?" Buffy whispered to Willow after everyone drank a full cup of wine and then got refills. "Do you Jews get drunk for this holiday too?"
"Just four cups of wine on Passover," Willow whispered back. "One for each blessing."
After the wine, Willow's father held up a strange type of giant square cracker that Buffy had never seen before. "Behold the Matzah, the bread of affliction that our ancestors had to eat when they were slaves in the land of Egypt. Let it remind us of those who today are poor and hungry. May all who are in need share this Passover feast with us. Let all who are hungry come and eat."
The people around the table each read part of the story of Passover about how the Jews were once slaves in Egypt but were freed through God's power. One of Willow's young cousins recited the traditional four questions that asked "Why is this night different from all other nights." There was a lot of talking about how Passover means emancipation wrested from the yoke of conquerors, freedom from the bonds of slavery, and the right of all people to be free. Someday, they read, all the world's Pharaohs, all tyrants everywhere, will be vanquished, right will conquer might, God alone will rule, and everyone will enjoy freedom, justice, and peace.
There was a lot of singing, mostly in Hebrew, which neither Buffy nor Tara could understand but which the Jews at the table seemed to enjoy. All Buffy remembered was a silly English song the children sang about how Pharaoh had frogs in his beard and a Hebrew song that seemed to repeat "Die die Anu" until Buffy wanted to cry "Enough already, just let this Anu guy die in peace."
Finally, after about an hour of this, and the blessing and drinking of a second cup of wine, Willow's mother passed a plate that had pieces of the matzah. A prayer was said and they ate. A second plate was passed that had matzah sandwiches with a strange red filling. Willow warned Buffy and Tara that the red stuff was horseradish, the Passover bitter herbs, but Buffy said she could handle it. "Don't say I didn't warn you," Willow said and smiled vindicated when Buffy took a big gulp of water afterwards.
The meal itself started with a hard-boiled egg each, then gefilte (chopped) fish that Tara pronounced delicious and asked Willow's Bubbie for the recipe. Then there was chicken soup with a light fluffy dumpling that Willow said was a matzah ball. They ate roasted chicken and brisket and many side dishes that Willow had to identify. One of these was a potato kuggel that Buffy thought tasted like a pie made out of mashed potatoes. There was tsimites or stewed fruit and there was farfel stuffing. There were string beans and spinach but no peas, corn, or rice as these were not kosher for Passover. Everyone ate and ate until they noticed the children were getting antsy.
"Go ahead, you can look now," said the Zadie. All the children scattered and started looking under chair cushions, inside cabinets, and between books in the bookcases.
"What are they looking for?" asked Tara.
"They're trying to find the Afikomen," Willow explained. "That's a part of the matzah that's supposed to be the last thing eaten so we need it to continue the sedar."
"He shouldn't have lost it then," Buffy said.
Willow laughed. "Funny, huh. He loses it every year. Whoever finds it gets a prize."
Buffy started looking around, ready to use her special slayer abilities to help. "Um, Buffy," Tara said waving at the kids running around and the adults still seated. "I think this part is just for the children."
Finally, one of the cousins found the special matzah and was rewarded with a giant chocolate bar. The adults resumed the story of Passover. Full from the feast, Buffy's attention drifted as a third cup of wine was blessed and drunk, until Willow's Zadie started talking about the Holocaust, which Buffy remembered from school.
"My turn, my turn," said one of the younger cousins. He ran over to open the door.
Buffy looked at Willow, "Did someone knock?"
"This is part of the ceremony," Willow explained. "We open the door for the Prophet Elijah and hope he comes with the Messiah to bring an era of peace for the world."
The cousin opened the door, and everyone was astonished to see someone there.
"Somehow, I doubt that's Elijah," said Tara as she stared with the rest. It was the giant vampire Befarek grinning as he saw all the helpless people in the room. He was flanked by two other vampires, one on both sides.
"An open door," the vampire said and took a step into the house, followed by the others. Buffy, Willow, and Tara began to stand up but looked at Willow's family who did not know anything about vampires. "An invitation," the vampire said, taking another step. "Let all who are hungry come and eat." All three grinned with menace. "Well, we're hungry. And all of you look so tasty."
Willow's father turned to the Zadie, unsure what to do. The invitation was just part of the ritual and no one had every just walked in before. Buffy surveyed the room for wooden objects; her stakes were in her coat in the closet. How was she supposed to anticipate an invasion of vampires into the house? And how was she supposed to fight three vampires in the middle of a dinner party without someone suspecting something?
Willow thought furiously. While Buffy could not do anything without revealing her identity to far more people than should know about her, Willow certainly did not want her family eaten either. But there was a third option.
Willow grabbed Elijah's cup and two other goblets of wine. She moved to intercept the vampires and offered them each a cup. "You can't eat before you drink," she said.
"Not what we were planning on drinking," the head vampire said. "Still, why not?" and he drained his cup, the two flunkies drinking too. "Now about drinking," he grabbed Willow but before he could do anything, all three vampires began shaking and steam, or was it smoke, began to rise from their bodies.
"Musta drunk the wine too fast," Willow said quickly. "Buffy, bathroom?"
Willow and Buffy, who was already out of her chair the instant the vampire had seized Willow, guided the vampires away from the dining room, barely getting them out of sight before all three exploded into dust.
"How did you do that?" Buffy was amazed. She had no idea Willow was this powerful.
"I didn't do anything," Willow explained. "You told me last year about the vampire you tricked into drinking holy water."
"Yes, but they drunk wine, not water."
"Wine that had already been blessed three times," Willow pointed out. "And kosher for Passover to boot. I figured that had to be at least as powerful as holy water."
The two returned to the dining room and announced that the three strangers had left. "They couldn't handle their wine," Willow explained.
Although Buffy remained on high alert for the rest of the seder, nothing happened. Buffy did figure out that the special Passover prayerbook, the Haggadah, had translations for most of the songs and transliterations using English letters for most of the songs (although she could not figure out why the transliteration for the song about goat bought for two zuzzim simply stated "mumble quickly until chorus").
Finally, the Zadie ended the sedar with "Next Year in Jerusalem" and closed the book. Buffy got up to guard Willow's family as they went to their cars but Willow pulled her down again. "You don't want to miss the best part," she said.
"What's that?" Tara asked.
"Dessert!" Willow squealed. "It's amazing how you can make yummy cake and cookies and mousse without flour if you just add enough chocolate." The three girls laughed together and Buffy's spirits rose. She suddenly realized the real reason Willow had invited her. It was not to fight vampires or to block inquiries about Tara. It was because she was part of Willow's family, Willow's real family - along with Xander, Giles, and strangely even Anya. So naturally, she was included in the family holiday feast.
And Willow was right. It was delicious.
In jokes explained to non-Jews: The rituals and foods and songs for Passover in real life are pretty much as described here (but I simplified and shortened everything considerably).
The song Dayanu (which translates as "It would have been enough") is about all the good things God did to help the Jews. After each verse about how God saved us from Egypt and fed us with manna and gave us the Torah etc, everyone says Dayanu, it would have been enough.
The song about the goat is a song where each verse gets added to all the previous ones so you get verses like "Then came the water that quenched the fire, that burned the stick, that beat the dog, that bit the cat, that ate the goat, that my father had bought for two zuzzim". Traditionally, the leader goes faster and faster with each new verse so that near the end, even those of us who know the Hebrew words are reduced to mumbling.
As for the title of the chapter, the special dinner on Passover is called the Sedar, which translates to order, since there is a special order of the various readings, songs, and special foods. So given how this particular sedar includes a vampire invasion (which is not part of the usual ritual) I decided on "Disorder at the Sedar"