Happy Passover, Willow
By Sam James
Disclaimer: Willow, Buffy, Giles, Xander and the whole town of Sunnydale belong to Fox and Mutant Enemy. I'm just, er, borrowing them. This story is set in S4.
"Are you looking for anything in particular, Willow or is this some ritual thingie?" Buffy asked her roommate curiously. Willow was scurrying around their dorm room carrying a candle and a feather. She was using the feather to gather crumbs and the candle to burn them.
"Both actually," Willow answered. "I'm searching for chumutz."
"You've lost me on the second sentence."
"It's part of the Jewish holiday of Passover," Willow explained. "We search for crumbs of bread and other things we're not allowed to eat on Passover."
"What aren't you allowed to eat?"
Willow ticked them off on her hands, "Anything made of wheat except for matzah, which is a sort of unleavened cracker which tastes like cardboard. You'll see me eat a lot of it next week and then never again until next Passover. And we can't eat anything from which you might be able to make bread, like rice or corn. This means I have to carefully check all the ingredients of everything I eat. You won't believe how much stuff has corn syrup in it until you've had to look at every package of whipped cream and non-diary creamer in the supermarket. And Jews from European backgrounds can't eat peas or legumes like peanuts."
Buffy looked at Willow suspiciously, "How do I know that you haven't been replaced by a demon who can't eat human food and is just making all of that up as a cover?"
Willow sighed. As much as she liked Buffy there were some disagreeable aspects of being a vampire slayer's roommate. "Call Xander," she suggested. "He's tried my matzah on a couple of occasions and attended a few Seders at my house."
"Seder?" Buffy asked.
"The word means order, as in order of a religious service. But it's really a feast celebrating the Jews' exodus from Egypt."
"Exodus as in the Bible?"
"Literally, the one in the Bible. The Jews were slaves in Egypt, building cities for Pharaoh until Moses came and told Pharaoh to 'Let my people go.'"
"I thought that was an African-American song?" Buffy had vague memories of hearing a social studies teacher play an old record.
"Well, that too. African American slaves used the Jews' escape from Egypt as an metaphor for their own eventually freedom. My mom's seder has a lot of those multicultural connections. Oh, you're invited of course."
"I'm invited?" Buffy grinned. "To a feast?" Like any college student, Buffy salivated at the thought of free food. "But how could you have a feast with all the things you aren't allowed to eat?"
Willow giggled. "We Jews love a challenge. In fact, my mother probably does more baking for Passover than she does the entire rest of the year. There's chicken soup with matzah balls, gefilte fish, brisket and turkey, potato kugel, bitter herbs with haroset..."
"I don't know what any of that is, but it sounds delicious."
"Trust me," Willow smiled. "You'll fill up. But first we tell the story of the Exodus, ask the four questions, and sing lots of songs."
"I can sing," Buffy protested.
"Did N'Sync write any songs in Hebrew?" Willow shook her head. "I guess not then."
Willow finished her search of the dorm room and then turned to her roommate. "Do you have a penny?" Buffy flicked a coin over to her. "I hereby sell all my chumutz to you."
Buffy looked at her quizzically. "Another part of the holiday is that we're not allowed to own any of the food we can't eat. So we have to sell it all to non-Jews. In my case that means you now own my popcorn and the half of a bagel in the fridge."
"Great," Buffy said. "I missed breakfast." She went over to the fridge but stopped when the two girls heard a knock on their door. Willow opened it and a tall, blond girl walked in. Buffy immediately recognized her. "Lily, what are you doing here? Why didn't you just call if you needed me?" It was her friend from her summer in L.A. who had taken her place as a waitress.
"This woman wanted to meet you," Lily waved a person into the room. In walked a wrinkled old lady who seemed even older than Willow's great aunt. Her hands were calloused from hard physical labor. She walked in slowly and nervously, positioning herself at a distance from the others in the room. She hesitated before each movement.
Buffy made the connection. "It's happening again? The demons are taking more children and working them until they grow old and dumping them back?"
"I remember your telling us about that," Willow added. "They were in a dimension with different time sequencing so that years passed there while only minutes did here. You know, that would be great for those late night cram sessions-study a week for a test and still have time to slay the night away."
"Don't even think it," Buffy warned. "We're not going back."
"The Liberator!" the woman cried on hearing Buffy's voice. She got on her knees and kissed the hem of Buffy's dress.
Buffy's eyes looked a question at Lilly. The tall girl replied, "That's all she kept saying, she wanted to see the Liberator. It took me forever to realize she meant you."
"Liberator, you must help," the old woman kept repeating the phrase.
"If they're taking more people I will help," Buffy promised, ignoring the fact that she had just said they would not go. "The last time I just freed a few of the youngest slaves. This time, I'm taking them all and shutting Ken's demons down permanently."
Willow giggled. "Just like in the Passover story. Let my people go!" She looked thoughtful for a moment. "You know, we might just be able to use this. There's a lot of power in symbolism and Jews have been using these symbols for freedom for thousands of years."
"Okay," Buffy came to a decision and like a general, set the agenda of her followers. "Willow, you get together with Tara and Anya to see if the three of you can figure out a way back into that dimension," Buffy ordered. "I'll call Xander and tell him to meet us at Giles' to get weapons."
"But, we have the Seder," Willow protested. "My whole family will be there. I can't just skip out."
"You're forgetting the different time rate," Buffy reminded her. "Besides, you said this holiday is about freeing slaves. This Passover, instead of telling the story of an exodus, you'll help cause one."