Monday, April 23, 2012
The Passover Peacock
By Steven Plaut
It was a few days before Passover when I first heard the horrific
cackling. What the hell is that, I ask the family members, it sounds
just like Shulamit Aloni! But it wasn't.
Soon thereafter, my wife comes running into the house. "There is a
peacock downstairs in the yard," she proclaims. Hmmm, just in time
for Passover, thinketh I?
Down I go to investigate. And there standing in our yard is a
giant turkey, like something out of a Thanksgiving poster in a Walmart
store. We live not far from the Haifa zoo, and various critters,
especially those in possession of wings, tend to escape the place and
go seeking friendlier quieter surroundings. The zoo, you see, is
rather noisy. Late at night throughout our neighborhood one can hear
the elephants in the zoo making loud noises. And, how shall I put
this delicately, the noises they are making are NOT from their mouths,
and resemble the noises I myself make when I eat too much chulent or
read Tikkun magazine.
Zoology is not my wife's strong point, so you will have to forgive
her classification error in ornithology. Her Passover peacock was in
fact a turkey. She had some good reasons though for the confusion.
Years back we actually had a male peacock refugee from the same zoo
take refuge in our yard, long peacock feathers with the bluish "eye"
looking decorations and all. The kids were young back then and
nicknamed the peacock "Notsi" from the Hebrew word for feather, Notz.
The yard guest then lost a feather, which we saved, and use to this
day in the late night search for any crumbs of leavened bread the
night before the Passover seder. The kids discovered that peacocks
really like "Bamba," a peanut-butter tasting Israeli puffy snack.
Bamba by the way is kosher for Sephardim during Passover, containing
kitniyot, and it seems that peacocks are Sephardic because they love
gobbling up Bamba even during Passover. We know, we fed it.
The newest "Notsi" was however an obnoxious aggressive male
turkey. The various cats on the street found themselves intimidated
and chased down the block by the monster whenever they came too close
to investigate. No one quite knew what to do with the turkey. Being
the only American around, I of course proposed fattening it up and
trying to keep it around until the last week of November, when all
Americans know just what the proper use for such yard guests should
be. The neighbors however cringed at the thought of the noisy
gobbling lasting that long.
Meanwhile, the children all along the street were carrying out to
the garbage containers plastic bags full of chametz, leavened
products. I invited them over to feed our Passover turkey the scraps,
instead of dumping or burning them. I am sure it was the highlight of
Passover for many of them, and for years they will remember feeding
the beast far better than they recall reading about Pharaoh in the
Haggada. I am not sure of Levy's rye bread still exists, but I bet it
could use the turkey from our yard in its famous ads about how you do
not have to be Jewish to love Levy's rye bread.
The Passover turkey did have some problems during Passover itself
though. It was not crazy about matzot, not even egg matza or
Anyhow, the parking near the zoo was horrendous during Passover,
with some cars parking as far away as the spaces in front of our
building just to get to the zoo. But the lazier families stopped the
climb up the hill when they got to our yard and let the kids chase and
photograph the Passover turkey.
Alas, the turkey did not last very far into the counting of the
Omer. One morning it was just gone, and I suspect one of the other
critters that lives in the Haifa wadis or gorges came out one night
and had its own snack. There are wild boars down there and huge
porcupines. There went my plans for Thanksgiving!
But all is not lost. I went for a climb up the Carmel today to
get some serious coffee, and a few buildings up the hill from my own I
hear a new, but different, cackle. This time it was not Shulamit
Aloni either. (She has never quite recovered, by the way, from Hansel
and Gretel escaping!)
This time it really was a peacock, the newest refugee from the
zoo, although a female this time, meaning she did not have any of
those glorious blue feathers. If she hangs around until Shavuos, I
will let you know if she eats cheesecake.