Simson and the sheep

A few months before Passover, a carefully selected member of the Kaduri clan start to look after the family’s sacrificial lamb. This lamb was well fed and watered often, given leisurely walks around the neighbourhood and just generally had its well being looked after. During its short stay with the Kaduri’s, the lamb was nearly treated like an Askenazi would treat the family’s dog.

The lamb, unlike an Askenazi ‘s family dog however, was however NOT allowed inside the house never mind jump on the couches. And its stay with the family was also not until the end of its last days. Eliyahu the mohel, who is also a certified ritual slaughterer, was already invited to do the deed a few days before Passover.

Nadji Kaduri was usually the designated lamb carer but because of what happened the previous year, his wife decided that it is time for a younger person to look after the lamb. Nobody actually said anything about Nadji being too old to look after the lamb but Simcha, Nadji’s wife and the best cook of the entire shikoon (neighbourhood) knew that it was time.

The entire procedure of choosing the new lamb carer must be approached with the utmost finesse and diplomacy. There are quite a few potential candidates between the younger male cousins of the large Kaduri clan. Even Georgina, one of the female cousins and a bit too much of a feminist, said last year that she wouldn’t mind helping Nadji with the lamb if needed.

“Hmmmph,” snorted Simcha to herself “If needed!!” The act of looking after the sacrificial lamb brings a lot of respect to the immediate family. But it was actually one of the Kaduri family’s Passover traditions that had Simcha much more worried. The unwritten code states that the family who looks after the lamb also gets to cook the lamb. So, by default they get to host the entire Passover eve meal. This was an honour that Simcha’s younger sister Naomi (Georgina’s mother) had her eye on for a long time now. Even though her food was not nearly as tasty as that of her older sister.

Simcha knew exactly when to bring up the subject of the new lamb carer. She insisted that the entire clan come and have that Friday’s Shabbat meal at her house to discuss Nadji’s health. Nadji is a beloved member of the family but he was not a spring chicken anymore and everyone started to get a bit worried about his health now that Simcha mentioned it. That, plus Simcha’s reputation as the best cook in the whole of the shikoon ensured that the entire clan showed up.

She carefully timed the exact moment to bring up the subject of the new lamb carer. She waited until the sounds of the scraping cutlery against the good Shabbat dishes slowly started to be replaced by snatches of conversation.

“Thanks doda, this was another delicious meal”, said Georgina, which made her mother frown at her.

“So I told him: ‘Sir! You will not get a better deal here in Zichron or Benjamina or even in the entire Pardes Hannah!’

“Wow, you have finished all of the salad already!? I only had one helping!”
“I am NOT washing the dishes again tonight! Why don’t the boys ever get a turn?!”

“When are you getting married already? How long do your poor parents have to wait for grandchildren?”

“Simcha my sweet angel, do you have any more of that delicious chicken of yours? I am so stuffed but I just have to have another bite.”

Simcha narrowed her eyes at her well-built nephew. “You are just going to have to wait a bit Yossi. It is time that we discuss who will look after the lamb this year.”

A surprised silence fell over the entire table. The talkers stopped in the middle of their conversations and the eaters stopped in the middle of their ‘eat-everything-on-the-table’ competition.

“What do you mean ‘who will look after the lamb this year’? Hasn’t Nadji been looking after the sheep for the last ten years now?”

“He cannot do it again this year” replied Simcha, “it is someone else’s turn.”

“But doda, he does such a good job! His lamb is always the tastiest in the entire shikoon,’ said Yossi.

“Your uncle is 75 year’s old! Last year the lamb pushed him over and he nearly broke his leg. The stupid lamb also started to ran away but was finally caught by Israel.” Just about everyone was very surprised to hear this. Nadji and Simcha did not say a word about it last year.

Finally Georgina asked gently, “Is that the Israel who is a policeman?”

“Yes”, said Simcha. “Sarah’s eldest son. He often comes to visit his parents and saw the whole thing. Luckily he got hold of the sheep for us before the mohel showed up.”

“How did he manage to catch the sheep?” asked one of the cousins.

Nadji, who was feeling a bit put out that Simcha made him look old and weak in front of the entire clan, suddenly chimed in.

“He chased after the sheep in his policeman car and then he caught him with a rope. Just like a cowboy!”

And so, between the laughter and jokes from Nadji’s descriptions of how Israel caught the runaway sheep and the tea with nana and Simcha’s delicious homemade baklava it was decided that the mantle of the lamb carer would pass over to Simson. He is Nadji and Simcha’s youngest son and ran the local makolet. He is young and strong and not married and so was the ideal candidate. What finally made him the Kaduri’s designated lamb carer however was the fact that he still lived with his parents. This means that Simcha would cook again the Passover meal. There were a few protestations from Naomi and Georgina but Yossi and the other serious eaters of the family quickly managed to overrule them.

Simson took his job as lamb carer very seriously, not only did he have his parents watching his every step very closely but also because Israel the policeman liked to pop in every once and awhile. He even showed Simson the new rope that he had bought ‘just for in case’. And also because the lamb, or Sheepo as Simson started to call him. had started to become a friend.

Every morning the two of them would walk together to the makolet and then Sheepo would graze on the grass in the field behind the building while Simson minded the shop. They walked together home again for lunch and a siesta then back to the makolet for the late afternoon/ evening shift. Simson lead Sheepo around with a piece of twine that Nadji still had over from the previous years but later on the twine was not even necessary, Sheepo started to follow Simson around like a dog. The two of them even once walked up to the moshava for a beer at the outside pub. The other patrons however teased them too much so they only did it that one time.

Slowly, whenever there were no people around, Simson started to confide things to Sheepo. He started to tell them about his hopes for a family of his own, how worried he was about the health of his father and how he didn’t like it that his mother always had to cook for everyone. Sheepo seemed to listen to his worries and was never judgemental. Finally Simson realized that Sheepo has became a friend and that he could not allow his family to eat him at Passover.

That very evening he told his parents that the mohel could not to kill Sheepo. “But you love eating lamb” said Simcha, “and everyone is going to want to see if your lamb is going to be as tasty as father’s lambs. How can we have Passover without a lamb?”

Nadji even brought the rabbi over to discuss the role of the sacrificial lamb with Simson and though he listened respectfully, he still insisted that nobody is going to eat Sheepo. His parents still thought that they could convince him that the lamb had to be slaughtered until Simcha saw Simson one day with Abu Zaid.

Abu Zaid came from the neighbouring Arab village Furedis, every springtime to look after their olive orchard at the back of the house. Simcha was too far to make hear what they were saying but Simson pointed to the sheep standing next to him and Abu Zaid’s large pickup truck. At first Abu Zaid looked puzzled but finally he smiled and nodded his head.

Simcha knew that if there was be lamb that Passover on the menu, she better make a plan before Abu Zaid rescued Sheepo.. As always she timed everything carefully, Simson had to go to Haifa one morning to finalize some deliveries for Passover for the makolet. He had reluctantly asked his father to look after Sheepo and Nadji promised that he would do so. As soon as Simson got on the 202 bus that morning, Eliyahu the mohel did the deed.and Sheepo was no more. Everything had to take place at Noami’s house but of course under strict supervision from Simcha. All the Kaduri’s, who were getting a bit alarmed at Simson’s attachment to the sheep swore that they will not breathe a word to him.

That afternoon, Simson realized that something had happened to Sheepo as soon as he saw his dad and two of his cousins waiting for him at the bus stop. It was one of the cousins that had to tell him that Sheepo had managed to get away from Nadji and that nobody could find him. Nadji could not look his son in his eyes. Israel the policeman was on a stakeout and could not be asked for help this time.

At first Simson was a bit sad that his friend left without him having the chance to say goodbye. But he was happy that Sheepo had managed to escape the Passover table. He only started to realize that his parents might have lied to him when his cousin Georgina came one day to the makolet. She obviously wanted to tell him something but in the end just ran out the shop without saying a word.

He was too busy with everyone stocking up on food for the holidays to go after Georgina and later her strange behavior slipped his mind. He was reminded of it again however on Passover eve when he entered his parents’ house. He and the men of the his family had been praying in the synagogue while the women helped his mother to prepare the last details of the feast. The smell of cooked lamb was strong in the air. Simson quickly glanced at the seder table and saw a lamb’s shank lying there.

“You murderers!!” he yelled, “how could you!?” and he stormed out of the house. All the Kaduri’s looked at each other but finally the eaters convinced to rest of the family that he needed some time to cool down and then they will go and look for him later on. In the meantime it is better not to let the food get cold. Everything was delicious as always and Simcha had to admit that Naomi seemed to have done a good job with the lamb. She, Nadji and Georgina could however not bring themselves to taste the lamb.

It was Israel who in the end found Simson wandering on his own in the neighbourhood. He refused to stay at this parents’ house and stayed with the neighbours for a while until he got lodgings at Mayan Zvi, the nearby kibbutz. He eventually sold the makolet, gave his parents their share and became a member of the kibbutz.

A year or two later when he got married on the beach with a blonde and blue-eyed American volunteer Geogina finally managed to make peace between him and his parents. A handful of the Kaduri’s were invited to the wedding but the strange Azkenazi food was not tasty at all for them. They all left early to go home to go and eat something normal.

Simson stayed a vegetarian for the rest of his life and later when he and the American had a daughter, he bought her a puppy. He named him Sheepo.