Mah Nishtanah

Mah Nishtanah – Four Questions by the Aspie Son
Written from the perspective of a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome

Published in: Spirit Magazine, and Inyan – Hamodia’s Weekly Magazine – Passover Edition, Spring 2011

“Mommy, everybody is looking. I don’t want to say this out loud, can I go in the kitchen?”

“Tatte Layben, I… Ma! If Zeidy is here by the seder, then I think I should say Zeide Layben”.

“Zeide Layben… Ma! Zeidy is alive, and everybody can see that. Why do I have to announce it?”

“Zeide, ich vil bei dir fregen di fir kashes…

Mah Nishatana Halayla Hazeh… Why is this night different from all other nights? On all the other nights I can eat my rice cake that I eat every night, this time. But tonight, and on this night only… (Ma! We eat matzah the entire Pesach, why do I have to say on this night only?!)…more than any other night, why do we have to eat potato? You know it’s soft and mushy and I hate the way it feels in my mouth? And then when I do swallow it, I can’t drink again until after the next Kos, after saying mah nishtanah?

Why is this night different from all other nights? On all the other nights I can sit with my comfortable shabbos shirt, the one that is made to look like a shirt but is really a t-shirt, the one that has no seams or labels? Why on this night do I have to wear this itchy glittery shirt that I made with the O.T. by therapy? My fingers got all sticky from the glue and I had glitter on my eyelids for three days and three nights. And also, I think there are some rabbonim who hold that glue is chometz! And people might not know that glitter is made of very small, 1 mm pieces of paper, glass or plastic painted in metallic, neon and iridescent colors to reflect light in a sparkling spectrum. Glitter was invented by Henry Ruschmann. This is really very interesting! Which reminds me of the next question…

Why is this night different from all other nights? On all the other nights I keep my salad dry without dressing because I hate dressing and nobody forces me anymore. But tonight, and on this night only, and also tomorrow night at the second seder because we are in galus and in chutz l’aretz, not like the people who in Eretz Yisroel have only one seder each year. In America, we have two, and also if an American goes to Israel for Yom Tov, they must have two sedarim. That’s why I don’t want to go to Israel on Yom Tov because it would make me feel all mixed up inside and my brain would feel all funny and I would see everything in jumping zig-zags and I would get very upset and I would have to make that noise with my mouth because it feels better afterwards. I would much rather have two seders over here, as long as I can stay in the kitchen. And, also, if I can have my romaine lettuce dry, without being forced to dip it in the charoses, which is very old apples and are already brown, and brown is my worst color.

Why is this night different from all other nights? On all the other nights I can sit on my special chair by the wall in the kitchen, where nobody can touch me or breathe near my plate, but tonight, and also tomorrow night, we have to eat reclined, and that means I would be touching Ari’s chair. If I touch Ari’s chair, I will touch Ari’s right leg and I know he will kick me. Last year in Bubby’s house he kicked me after the third kos, and when I was third grade, I was leaning on cousin Chaim from Lakewood who was 14 then, and he almost kicked me but I hated touching him because I was worried that I would get too close to his beard. His beard looked like it would be prickly and it would make me feel like I need to run to my room and bang my head for a long long long time. And then my therapist will get upset that I didn’t do the brushing exercise.

Ma! When is this over? Can I stop saying Mah Nishtana and drink some grape juice now?”

Please do not reprint or photocopy without permission. 

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Pesach Atmosphere

In September 2006, Hatzlacha grocery store in Monsey, NY was caught selling nonkosher (treifa) chicken as from Kiryas Yoel, horrifying the Orthodox Jewish communities worldwide. The chaos that erupted created many factions and extreme responses. To lighten the devastation with some humor, I wrote the following article under an alias, which was published in the Community Connections, Monsey’s largest weekly.

Pesach Atmosphere
Sept. 7 – 14, ‘06

A new wave of cleaning has unexpectedly been set in motion,
Our Rosh Hashanah preparations are overridden with a Pre-Pesach emotion.

A dreadful poultry-crisis has infiltrated the community of Monsey,
Few are spared, nearly everyone is caught up with the wait-and-see.

The streets are plastered with posters, with constant updates and news
Intensifying each and every p’sak, informing us on everybody’s views.

The olam is efficiently handling the Erev Yom Tov deeds,
Toiveling & Kashering, running at large through the Monsey/S.V. streets.

Dayanim and Rabanim are being burdened with sheilos, established with the pots & pans,
Followed by the Microwaves, ovens and cutlery, all unloaded from the minivans.

When doing teshuvah, the Chasam Sofer compares it to the korbon pesach, on the same level.
How far are we digging to find one more ‘treif’ dish, one more ‘treifener leffel’?

As we crown Hashem in our Rosh Hashana tefillos this year
We are grateful to have finally been made aware…

Avinu Malkanu, renew for us this year for the good.
Give us a reliable hechsher for our food.

Avinu Malkanu, return us to teshuva because it will be complete.
We have sterilized and decontaminated, it was no easy feat.

Avinu Malkanu, do for us on behalf of those who jump into fire & water for kiddush Hashem.
We have ‘kashered’, we have ‘toivled’ – we are ready for a new year ahead!