Pesach in the Sonoran desert, with the Syrians

23rd of Nisan, Hanoch Ne’eman, Scottsdale

Well Pesach for me, as an Israeli, is over pretty much; today is yom tov shani shel goliyut. The holiday prep included usual activities like reminding ourselves online which oils and seeds we do and don’t use. Also I had a doubt whether I would still be a good Jew if I used a pear-apple to make our charoset, but in the end I played it safe and used a regular apple. (By the way, pear apples were first brought to the Southwest by Chinese miners during the Gold Rush). My parents have here a surprising amount of Pesach dishes and supplies, so we were pretty prepared. Since my Mom was not feeling well I prepared most of the Seder, which may have been a first for me, or perhaps second.

The real big news was that Hashem in his kindness sent me a minyan! Yes, it was quite a Pesach surprise. About a week or so before the holiday I was gardening out in the back yard and thinking about the upcoming holiday and how I would not have any minyan to pray with on the festive days of the holiday or Shabbat Hol HaMoed. I talked to Hashem as I worked and said how much I would like to have a minyan. I said “Nothing is too hard for you Hashem, You could have a busload of observant Jews break down in front of my house Erev Hag. Nothing is too hard for you, but if that doesn’t happen… I guess I will try to enjoy praying here by myself.” I really said that, you know I don’t lie to you, dear readers.

So on the morning of the 14th of Nisan, after we had the siyum masechet for the Firstborn, I was learning a bit in the shul. The Rabbi was talking to some out of town guests. When they finished I asked what the shul minhag was about tephillin on Hol Hamoed? He said most people, including him, do not wear them. I asked if I could drive my car to shul on Yom Tov Shani to daven with the minyan? He said no, but then an idea came to him and he asked, where do your parents live again? I told him and then he said that just on Friday some men had come to minyan in the morning to meet him, their family is out here for the holiday and staying at the Scottsdale Hilton. We did a rough calculation and figured it was about a two mile walk from where I was. He immediately called them up. Michael, the fellow who had made the point of taking them there on Friday, because his friend back home told him he should meet Rabbi Shoshan, said, “Sure he can daven with us, I will send you a copy of the times of prayers.”

So a few hours before the holiday I got connected with a minyan for the whole holiday (except Hol Hamoed when I drove to Ahavas Torah). It took me about a half hour walk each way. They invited me to kiddush after the morning prayers, which went from about 7:30 to 9:45. It was one family, about 80 people. They had 18 villas at the hotel. They were Syrian Jews from New York. They were very hospitable. Michael walked me to the gate each day and night after davening or kiddush. The “Gramma” who was really Great-gramma, welcomed me warmly, told me to come every day, and “not wait for an invitation”. It was funny when she said, “Oh, so you are an Ashkenazi?” It almost sounded like a racial slur! The best I could answer was “Well, mostly… yes.” I was so embarrassed, it got me thinking that maybe I should convert to Sephardi.

They brought their own Torah and food, which they made themselves. They organized their own rafting trips, paintball, and trips to the Grand Canyon. They go away for Pesach together every year, but this is the first time to Arizona. Michael said they usually go to Florida, but the hotels they stayed at kept selling to developers, and with the Zika virus down there now, they decided to go to Arizona. They had almost booked at another hotel further North called The Boulders, but then at the last minute some other group booked it for Easter. So they ended up here at the Scottsdale Hilton, close to me.

Hashem is Gadol.

 

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