February 18, 2020

If I Even Find a Crumb …

Photo courtesy of Mark Schiff

Five weeks before the holiday, my wife uttered those three words that frighten the heck out of me every year: “Pesach is coming!”

Those words could scare the goose bumps off a goose. It’s also the most expensive holiday of the year. Our rabbi recently told us that for Pesach, we should “give until it hurts and then give more and then give more than that” to make sure the poor have food. This is a serious holiday.

On March 27, 23 days before the start of Pesach, I was in Glatt Mart in Los Angeles when I heard woman screaming, “They’ve already taken my breadcrumbs. Somebody help me. I want my breadcrumbs.” Housekeepers move systematically from room to room like Marine sharpshooters looking for a piece of crust that might be lurking inside a sock or under a rug. A Cheerio found after the start of the holiday could cause the same panic as if the Ebola virus was discovered at a local school. Local car washes familiar with the holiday’s drill await the crazy rush of Jews and their cars. The real frumies will steam clean their engines in case a piece of pretzel got sucked into the air conditioner, while a Chassidic family with 16 kids might find one of their kids sleeping under a pile of Gemaras in the back seat. There is a run on toothbrushes at drug stores. Local restaurants prepare to close as if a monster storm was heading their way. 

Nothing like getting in touch with your slave roots at the Ritz Carlton in Naples, Fla.

For the past six months, people have been signing up for Pesach programs at some of the top resorts in and out of the country. Nothing like getting in touch with your slave roots at the Ritz Carlton in Naples, Fla. A big family could easily spend more than $100,000 to go away for the week — well worth it for not having to cook and clean the house. 

The hotels where these events are held don’t really understand what they’re in for. First, some of the hotel elevators must be turned into Shabbos elevators so people don’t have to push a button. 

Then the hotel needs to hire 200 extra people to open the rooms because Jews aren’t allowed to use magnetic key cards on the Yom Tov. Room service can’t figure out why no one from this group ever gets hungry and orders anything. And the gym staff is amazed that none of the 700 people goes near any sort of exercise equipment.

The night of the first seder, the wait staff can’t believe their eyes when they see hundreds of people filing into the dining rooms, bringing pillows and what looks like three months’ worth of books. The children already are wearing pajamas and carrying blankets. They look like they plan to be there a long, long time. For a group that supposedly doesn’t drink alcohol, the staff watches as each person polishes off copious amounts of wine while leaning to the left as if they’re about to fall off their chairs. People working the dining room are phoning loved ones to say that it looks like they might not be home for a few days.

“Remember, two prunes for every one matzo. Good Yom Tov.”

One of the themes of this holiday is that we don’t forget where we came from, so we repeat the entire routine on the second night, so we remember not to forget.

The holiday of Passover and the ritual of the seder remind us that the Exodus out of Egypt culminated with God’s revelation to us at Mount Sinai, where God gave us the Torah and revealed himself to every Jew, not only to our leader, Moshe.

And finally, like many Jewish holidays, it’s about spending time with family and friends and, most of all, teaching our children this story. When our kids were little, what a thrill it was for us to see them stand on a chair and listen to them sing “Ma Nishtana.” The only thing better than seeing your son or daughter stand on a chair for the first time and recite the four questions is when someone takes you and your family to one of these five-star resorts and picks up the bill. 

Remember, two prunes for every one matzo. Good Yom Tov.

Mark Schiff is a comedian, actor and writer.