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The Story of the Exodus from Egypt…and France

The traditional Seder PlateThe traditional Seder PlateLater today, the computer will get shut down in exchange for setting up the traditional “Seder Plate” with all the symbolic items to commemorate the telling of the story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt: maror and chazeret (bitter herbs), charoset (made from chopped nuts, grated apples, cinnamon, and sweet red wine), karpas (parsley, celery or boiled potato), z’roa (roasted lamb or goat shank bone, chicken wing, or chicken neck) and beitzah (roasted or hard-boiled egg).

The plate I use is plastic, not ‘fancy-schmancy’ ceramic or silver, but a plastic plate my daughter made in kindergarten which is one of my most cherished possessions. It comes out only the times I agree to hosting a Passover Seder (every few years). Passover is one of those favorite holidays, though — like Thanksgiving — largely because it’s not religious, but traditional, because it brings families together just for the commemoration of something historical and happy worth celebrating and because…it’s centered around EATING! (At least, this is what I personally think contributes to its success.)

Finally, Gefilte FishFinally, Gefilte FishEven though all the guests at the table will not be Jewish, they come in spirit with the dishes that are traditional to the meal. One of them had a hard time coming up with “Gefilte fish,” an Ashkenazi Jewish dish made from a poached mixture of ground boned fish, such as carp, whitefish or pike. Most all of the groceries and delis on rue des Rosiers were already sold out by the time she went hunting for it, but she did eventually ‘score’ some along with the traditional pink horseradish (“raifort” in French), which makes it taste particularly yummy when marrying it all with matzo.

The story itself is read from a “Haggadah” and could take up to four hours to tell while having the meal. This is when the eyes start to roll and the glasses of wine get filled so that by the time we eat the fruit ‘compote’ dessert, we’ll be too drunk on the obligatory four glasses of wine to care! (Interestingly enough, “compote” is a dessert for which we have 17th-century France to thank, made up of pieces of fruit in a sugar syrup. It’s traditional to eating on Passover, and regardless of the real reason for this, my family had always joked that it was necessary after eating so much matzoh which can be ‘binding!’)

In 2006, Michael Rubiner, a scriptwriter for TV and film, wrote “a Passover service for the impatient” titled “The Two-Minute Haggadah.” He must have seen all those eyes rolling and offered up an alternative to the usual (sometimes tedious) telling of the story of the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. Here it goes:

    Opening prayers:

    Thanks, God, for creating wine. (Drink wine.)

    Thanks for creating produce. (Eat parsley.)

    Overview: Once we were slaves in Egypt. Now we’re free. That’s why we’re doing this.

    Four questions:
    1. What’s up with the matzoh?
    2. What’s the deal with horseradish?
    3. What’s with the dipping of the herbs?
    4. What’s this whole slouching at the table business?

    Answers:
    1. When we left Egypt, we were in a hurry. There was no time for making decent bread.
    2. Life was bitter, like horseradish.
    3. It’s called symbolism.
    4. Free people get to slouch.

    A funny story: Once, these five rabbis talked all night, then it was morning. (Heat soup now.)

    The four kinds of children and how to deal with them:
    Wise child—explain Passover.
    Simple child—explain Passover slowly.
    Silent child—explain Passover loudly.
    Wicked child—browbeat in front of the relatives.

    Speaking of children: We hid some matzoh. Whoever finds it gets five bucks.

    The story of Passover: It’s a long time ago. We’re slaves in Egypt. Pharaoh is a nightmare. We cry out for help. God brings plagues upon the Egyptians. We escape, bake some matzoh. God parts the Red Sea. We make it through; the Egyptians aren’t so lucky. We wander 40 years in the desert, eat manna, get the Torah, wind up in Israel, get a new temple, enjoy several years without being persecuted again. (Let brisket cool now.)

    The 10 Plagues: Blood, Frogs, Lice—you name it.

    The singing of “Dayenu”:

    If God had gotten us out of Egypt and not punished our enemies, it would’ve been enough. If he’d punished our enemies and not parted the Red Sea, it would’ve been enough.

    If he’d parted the Red Sea—(Remove gefilte fish from refrigerator now.)

    Eat matzoh. Drink more wine. Slouch.

    Thanks again, God, for everything.

    SERVE MEAL.

Sometimes I think the next ‘commemoration’ will be of the exodus of the French from France. By whom? The young entrepreneurial French, that’s by whom.

Sitting at a sunny corner table at Café Charlot this morning, I overhead a group of young people talking about the economic situation in France. One young man speaking in English described Paris as a ‘museum’ city that is not ‘dynamic.’ He said in so many words that it takes so much energy to create a new business in France that there is no energy left for the business itself. He talked about living in Los Angeles and how exciting it was for business — that it was international and had a special spirit, even though he didn’t find it beautiful like Paris. Clearly, he loves Paris from his extolling of its other attributes — particularly it’s ability in which to be a pedestrian or enjoy café life such as they were in this one.

Guillaume Santacruz - by Andrew Testa courtesy the NYTimesGuillaume Santacruz – by Andrew Testa, courtesy the NY TimesIt’s a dilemma for those who have energy and bright ideas. There are more and more articles about the struggle both the entrepreneurial community and the young are having to stay in France and not be ‘slaves’ to the system that won’t allow them the freedom they need and want. New York Times journalist, Liz Alderman, writes about it often. In a recent article titled “Au Revoir, Entrepreneurs,” she quoted Guillaume Santacruz, an aspiring French entrepreneur, who has two degrees in finance. When he attempted to start a business in Marseille, he drowned in government regulations and taxes to the point that he fled to London. London now has 350,000 French — as many as there are French living in Nice, France’s fifth largest city.

Then, to support the complaints by those willing to “work more to earn more” (past President Nicolas Sarkozy’s mantra), another New York Times article appeared on April 11th by Scott Sayare titled “In France, a Move to Limit Off-the-Clock Work Emails” that would SHOCK the American mentality. Labor unions and corporate representatives are actually trying (it hasn’t been approved yet by the Labor Ministry) to limit “work emails and phone calls that come at all hours of the day and night.” This means that companies would be forced to “block communications from 11 p.m. to 10 a.m. by shutting down its email servers, while another might simply ask employees not to check email between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m.”

Have they gone out of their minds? I can’t even get my head around this! There is a nine-hour difference between Paris and Los Angeles and six hours between Paris and Hong Kong. How on earth will international companies be able to do business at all if their communications are restricted? If they want to discourage businesses from operating in France even more, they’re doing a good job of it. It all reeks of left-wing fascism and all this new regulation is destined to lead to economic suicide.

No doubt, the French will have even more reason to leave France behind, while the waters of the English Channel and the Atlantic will part to welcome them. They will take with them the ‘manna’ of their bright minds and solid French education leaving their marks on the world in places other than their own native country, while France will be haven to the retirees and tourists who frequent their museums and glorious sights, once built by the rich who no longer live there.

If you are an American dreaming of starting a business in France, as many do, beware. It will be your ultimate challenge and either you will be an extraordinary success thanks to the lack of competition and your natural cultural background that instills resourcefulness and ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking, or it will be your greatest frustration and failure. That is, until someone or something can turn the French thinking around to deregulate and let everyone just do what they want the way they want to do it…as long as they pay their taxes and ultimately get something for their hard-earned money…as we in France generally do.

Chag Sameach (KHAHG sah-MEHY-ahkh), Happy Passover!

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds, The Adrian Leeds Group LLCAdrian Leeds

Editor, Parler Paris & Director of The Adrian Leeds Group, LLC

Respond to Adrian

 

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House Hunters International- Episode 6509H- “Nice To Be Back in France”P.S. Tune in to House Hunters International tomorrow, April 15 at 10:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. E/P for the newest episode “Nice to Be Back in France.” If someone out there can record it for me in a way to send it electronically, I would greatly appreciate it! You can send it straight to [email protected] Many thanks — and I hope you enjoy the show!

Also, for an upcoming episode, we are seeking an apartment or home in which to film sometime during May 16-18 located in the western suburbs of Paris that has one/two bedrooms, one/two baths, is pet friendly, has a backyard or near a park, if on a high floor has an elevator, parking possibility, that would rent for approximately 1800 euros per month (although it need not be a rental or for sale). There is nothing to do, but give us permission to film and enjoy being a part of the process! If you are the owner or know someone who has a property that fits this description, please email me at [email protected].

Farnell Jenkins at the Negresco Hotel - Nice, FranceP.P.S. If you’re going to be in Nice April 19-21, treat yourself to an evening at the Negresco Hotel to see Farnell Jenkins, a Chicago-based pianist and organist, and accomplished songwriter and vocalist in the genres of gospel, blues, jazz, pop, and R&B. Farnell will be performing in the Relais Bar starting at 7:30 p.m. until 1 a.m. and there is no cover charge! Enjoy a great night out in Nice!

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