By Gerry Anklewicz (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Submitted: April 2001
Summary: Lois and Clark attend a Passover seder. The ensuing discussion puts a new light on Superman's role.
This story came to me as I was preparing for Passover 2001. I'd like to thank Carolyn Schnall who actually suggested that I write it and post it. That made the story percolate in my head until it screamed to make it onto the screen. Thanks also to Jude Williams., ML Thompson, Zoom's mbs. feedbackers who all made very useful suggestions including the need for footnotes.
Before I begin the actual fic, I'd like to add some footnotes (at the beginning) in order to explain some Passover traditions. Passover is a celebration of the story of the Exodus when Moses led the Children of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land. The holiday is celebrated at home around the dinner table at the "seder" which consists of reading, chanting and singing the story of the Exodus from a book called the "Hagaddah" (the telling) and eating a very festive meal. The holiday imposes a large number of food restrictions which has resulted in some very creative (and tasty) cookery. At the "seder" some ritual elements include: 1) the eating of matzah, unleavened bread (like crackers) which represents the haste with which the Children of Israel had to leave Egypt; 2)the tasting of bitter herbs which represent the bitterness of slavery; 3) the eating of charoset, a mixture of wine, chopped walnuts and chopped apples, which represents the mixture for building bricks for the pyramids; 4) the dipping of one's finger into wine as one counts out each of the ten plagues; 5) the hiding of the afikomen which is a piece of matzah to be eaten at the end of the meal (Many times children ransom the afikomen. It's a way to keep them awake and interested); and finally, 6) the cup of wine for the prophet Elijah who represents the promise of hope and a better world for the future. Whole hard-boiled eggs (representing the circle of life) dipped in salt water (representing tears) are eaten.
So, now I hope that some of the traditions make sense and you can find out how…
One Man Can Change the World
Gerry Anklewicz (email@example.com)
Ten-year old Adam dipped his pinky finger into the wine glass and spilled a drop of wine for each plague that was visited on Pharaoh: blood, frogs, hail…
Sitting around the seder table for Passover was a new experience for the newly-married Lois and Clark who were invited by Debbie Levine, their hostess and co-worker at the Daily Planet. The family's singing and chanting of the Passover story were punctuated by in-jokes about the quality of the family's singing voices, the return on the dollar for years and years worth of Hebrew school tuition, and the irony of the tradition of the afikomen which the children could steal and then ransom. After the traditional tasting of the matzah, the bitter herbs and the charoset, all symbolizing the hardships and the exodus from Egypt, the hard-boiled eggs and salt water were passed around the table and the festive meal began in earnest.
Lois and Clark were sitting at a long table amidst Debbie's family: her husband,Larry; her three children, Mike, Sheri and Adam; her father, Grandpa Morris; her sister and brother-in-law, Jane and Max, and their teen-age children, Marla and Steve; and her cousins Michelle and Rob and their young, lively children, Hayley and Noah.
The table looked festive. The regular dining room table and an extension were covered in a white tablecloth. The silverware shone brightly and the crystal goblets and glasses sparkled.
Once people began eating their eggs, Larry, at the head of the table, asked fifteen-year old Mike to talk about his latest school project. "You know, Mike," said Larry, "Mr. Kent and Ms. Lane may have some suggestions for your project since they both have interviewed Superman."
"Wow!" said Adam. "Do you really know him? Mom once saw him at the Daily Planet, but she's never spoken to him. This is great. Wait 'til I tell Laurie and Jeff at school on Monday."
"Cool it, kid," said a sophisticated, thirteen-year old Sheri. "This is not going to be one of your stupid Superhero discussions. You gotta tell that kid to grow up, Mom."
"Enough, Sheri," intervened Debbie. "Mike, explain your project to Mr. Kent and Ms. Lane."
"Well, Miss Glasser, my Hebrew teacher said that an individual person can change the world for the better. We talked about Moses and how he changed the course of history and how Christ changed history.'
"Yeh, and Hitler changed the world, too," grumbled Grandpa Morris under his breath.
"Right, Grandpa. We talked about that too. The whole idea was that individuals who use their abilities, intelligence and sometimes charisma can change the world. We're lucky when the world changes for good, but sometimes there are strong leaders who change it for the worse. Anyway, we were given a project to do."
"Do you notice that every time you get into a half-way decent discussion in school, the teachers turn it into an assignment?" asked Marla.
"Tell me about it. We have to do this project on a person, alive or dead, who changed or could change the world."
"So who did you pick?" asked Marla.
"Superman?" asked Marla. "You've got to be kidding. Is Adam having an influence on you?"
As Debbie cleared off the egg plates and served the salad and gefilte fish, she added, "No, Marla dear, actually Mike had this absolutely brilliant idea of how to approach the topic. Go on, Mikey, tell them."
"Mom, cut out the brilliant stuff."
"Of course you're brilliant. You got your brains from me. Now take some salad and explain what you're planning to do."
"Mothers!" retorted Mike who wondered when his mother would stop trying to embarrass him in front of the family and guests. "Okay, this is what I thought. In many ways, Superman is like Moses in that he was a stranger in a strange land who had to impress his people, as well as the people in power, that changes needed to be made."
"But Mike, there are no Kryptonians on Earth. Who are his people? And where are they going to be let go to?" asked Adam who knew everything there was to know about Superman. Actually, Debbie secretly thanked Superman for Adam's interest and strength in reading. Before Superman had appeared Adam didn't read well, but after the superhero's picture was splashed on the front of newspapers and on TV, Adam found everything that was printed on Superman and gobbled it up. His reading level shot up two grades in six months.
"No, birdbrain," said Mike, "It's not exactly the story of Moses. It's a different story. Superman has come here to make this place, Metropolis, a better to place to live in. We are slaves to corruption, disaster and violence. He's come here to show us that we don't have to live that way."
"Does that mean he's going to lead us into the desert and let us wander for forty years?" asked Marla sarcastically.
"Duh, Marla. You better start baking your matzah now!"
"Marla, listen to Mike," interrupted Sheri, "For once, he knows what he's talking about."
By this time, all the adults and the older children around the table were focussed on the discussion, curious to hear what Mike had to say. Lois looked at Clark who was beginning to fidget in his seat. Most of the time, he kept his eyes on his plate, trying to appear interested in the discussion without letting any signs of his agitation show. Lois was interested in Mike's hypothesis, feeling bad that she couldn't add another connection that could get Mike an A on his project. Like Moses, Superman had been placed in a basket, all right a tiny space ship, and wrapped in a blanket from his people, he was "floated" down a river (propelled through space) until he was found by a woman who had no children of her own. The woman took the foundling in and raised him as her own son, as one of her people. Perhaps Clark wasn't a prince of Egypt, but Martha raised him as a prince of a man. Both men knew that each had to help in the world he was raised in. Moses saved a slave, while Clark helped people out of danger long before he adopted the Superman guise. And like Moses, Clark left home and travelled to other places. Each man found a wife away from home and settled down. Moses found Tsiporah in Midian, and Clark found Lois in Metropolis. Moses worked as a shepherd; Clark worked as an investigative reporter. "Well, you can only milk an analogy for so long before it goes dry," thought Lois. She'd have to tell Clark when they got home.
Clark thanked Debbie for the bowl of chicken soup with matzah balls that she placed in front of him and then jumped into the children's conversation. "I don't know how well your teacher is going to take to your comparison here, Mike. This could be taken as sacrilegious. Let's face it, Moses was chosen by God who spoke to him from the burning bush. He was a prophet and a leader. Superman isn't like that at all. He's just a regular guy with these super powers."
"No, I have to disagree with you, Clark," interjected Larry. "Actually, Moses was just an ordinary man who was asked by the Almighty to help out in extraordinary circumstances, with, I might add, some extraordinary help. Superman, from what I've read, is an extraordinary man who is trying to help out in what are, unfortunately, ordinary circumstances."
"Oy, with ordinary like this, who needs extraordinary," intoned Grandpa Morris.
"I guess people don't see Superman as an ordinary man," sighed Clark as he savoured a spoonful of matzah ball and soup. "Mmmm, this is really good, Debbie."
"Anyways," continued Mike, "Here's where I could use your help. When Moses went to Pharaoh, he convinced Pharaoh to let his people go after the ten plagues were visited on Pharaoh, right? Well, I'd really like to use those ten plagues to show that Superman had to face those ten plagues either personally or to save people from what could be the equivalent of the ten plagues. I've done some research into back issues of the Daily Planet and other newspapers, and I've gone to zoomway.com as the official Superman page on the internet, but I haven't been able to figure everything out. Can you help?"
"We can try," said Lois who was watching Debbie and the older children bring out the next course of roast brisket, turkey and matzah stuffing, broccoli kugel, sweet potatoes, asparagus, potatoes with dill, and sweet carrots. "Are we supposed to eat all of that and stay slim?"
"Heavens, no. You're supposed to put on weight over Passover. It's an unwritten law," teased Debbie.
The platters were passed around the long table and when all the plates were filled Mike resumed the discussion. "So here are the ten plagues: blood, frogs, hail, locusts, cattle disease, fire, boils, vermin, darkness, slaying of the first born."
"That's what Adam was saying earlier on when you were dipping your pinkies into the wine, wasn't it?" asked Lois.
"That's right," said Grandpa Morris. "It's a tradition that we list and count off the plagues. Spilling the wine is like the spilling of blood. Symbolic."
"So what do you suggest, Ms. Lane, about the plagues?" questioned Mike.
"Blood. Hmm," Lois thought out loud. "Doesn't remind me of anything off hand."
"Me neither," Clark added, "Do you have anything for blood, Mike?"
"No. That's one of several that I can't get. The cattle one is easy since Superman recently flew to Britain to help out the farmers with the cattle contaminated with hoof and mouth disease. "
"That's one," counted Sheri.
"The fire reminds me of the fires that Superman had to put out when the Toasters were trying to burn up south side," said Lois.
"Yes, and remember the fire that Baby Rage set in Uncle Mike's restaurant to get him to sell," added Clark.
"That's two," enumerated Sheri.
"Can we count the green goop that poured down on Metropolis when Jefferson Cole tried to get Lois convicted of murder as hail?" asked Debbie who passed the broccoli kugel over to Lois. "Taste the kugel. It's to die for. "
"What's a kugel?" asked Lois.
"Basically, it's like a bread pudding. In this case it's made with broken up matzah instead of bread. I'll give you the recipe if you like?"
Lois accepted the platter with the kugel and put a piece on her already too full plate. "I'd call the goop, boils and the meteorites that fell from the sky after the Nightfall asteroid was deflected away from earth, the hail. What do you think, Clark?"
"Sounds as good as this stuffing tastes. This is incredible, Debbie," Clark raved.
"Thanks, Clark" chimed in Larry. "I married Debbie for her cooking skills as well as her beauty and brilliance which she has, of course, passed on to her three children."
"Women who are beautiful, brilliant and who can cook too? Didn't think you could get all three in one package, " wondered Clark as he playfully nudged Lois.
Meanwhile, Adam in a Transylvanian accent was counting, "One, two, three, four, four… We have four plagues."
"I remember reading something about stealing frogs when this guy tried to clone the President. What was all that about?" asked Grandpa Morris.
Lois looked at Clark, not sure how much to divulge.
"This guy, Dr. Mamba, tried to clone the president and some of his secret service agents. In order to survive, the clones needed to eat a very specific type of frog. The experiment wasn't successful since the clones didn't survive very long. But, it definitely can be counted as the fifth plague."
"Actually," Clark whispered to Lois as he squeezed her elbow, "it felt ten times worse than one plague when we went through it."
"This is terrific," said Larry. "We're halfway there. Actually, I read about the Nightfall Asteroid and I counted that one as darkness since the asteroid acted like an eclipse and people thought the world was going to end."
"Good one," said Lois. "For Clark here, it was darkness in a different sense because he fell into a pile of garbage, hit his head and lost his memory for a few days. He got over it just about the same time Superman deflected the asteroid."
"Yes," added Clark. "Losing your memory is a kind of blindness. You can't see behind you and you keep on bumping into your past."
"Or breaking my windows," mumbled Lois.
"And who was blind back then?" asked Clark.
"Only blind to your love, dear," murmured Lois patting Clark on the arm.
"Are we missing something here?" asked Sheri who was trying to follow Lois and Clark's conversation.
"Sorry, Sheri," Clark apologized. "Lois and I are sharing some personal memories that aren't part of the discussion. Anyway, I think we're up to six now."
"Well, I'm still stuck on blood," said Mike. "Can anyone out there help?"
"No. We've still got locusts and slaying of the first born," said Max who up until now hadn't shown any interest in the discussion.
"Before you go on," interrupted Marla, "I just looked it up in the the Haggadah, and there is no fire listed in the ten plagues, but you did leave out beasts."
"What beasts?" asked Max.
"I think the animals began dying," said Grandpa Morris.
"I like fire better. Can't we replace it?" suggested Sheri.
"No, it doesn't work that way," said Mike. "I've got to get this right. Mr. Kent do you have anything for beasts."
"Superman once saved me from rats in the underground sewers where Lex Luthor was hiding out. That would count as vermin. So that's six since fire doesn't count."
"I like fire the best," pouted Adam.
"Beasts, ladies and gentleman. That's our problem at the moment," said Debbie.
"And don't forget blood," added Larry.
"Remember that metallic 'bee' that kept on following us. That could be like locusts," suggested Lois.
"What metallic 'bee'? asked Sheri.
"Well, when we were investigating the terror and violence down on the south side, I got stung by a bee. It turned out that the 'bee' was really a kind of tracking or homing device that allowed the bad guys, Intergang in this case, to target me with paint bullets in order to warn Superman not to interfere with their plans. Others at the Planet were targeted as well. They were enough of those metallic nuisances around to be considered locusts."
"Good, that gives us seven," said Sheri.
"And I've got number eight," Mike announced proudly. "The slaying of the first born. Now, not all of the first born have been slain, but if they're alive they are in maximum security prisons. I did my research here and found out that Lex Luthor, Bill Church and his son, Bill Jr., Kyle Griffin, Diana Stride and Ariana Carlin were all first born children."
"That's incredible, Mike. I never knew that," said Clark.
"Good work, Mike. If you ever need a job doing research, just call me," said Lois.
"So what about numbers nine and ten?" asked Max.
"Well," Larry considered, "Maybe Superman hasn't convinced everyone yet that it is time to leave this so-called slavery. He and we need to deal with two more plagues."
"Now that is really stretching it, Larry," laughed Debbie as she placed the fruit platter on the table. "Mike, Sheri and Adam, go bring in the desert, please. Lois, you're really going to have to try my double-double chocolate cake. And yes, Max, I baked the lemon sponge cake with grated chocolate. How could I forget your favourite? Marla, darling, bring in the coffee and tea, please."
As they all indulged in desert and coffee, Clark felt that he needed to get one more thing straight from Mike. "The comparison that you're making is very interesting, but Moses led his people out of Egypt to the Promised Land. Superman is just trying to help out at natural disasters and trying to stop illegal activities. He's not leading anyone, anywhere."
"Sure he is. We may be staying here in Metropolis, but he's trying to lead us to a better way of life. He's showing us, by example, how to treat each other kindly, that we can help each other," said Mike.
"I think he's showing us that we have to reexamine our values," said Larry. "He says he stands for truth and justice. Justice isn't only what happens in court; justice is a way of looking at the world and how we conduct ourselves in that world. It's not a coincidence that in Hebrew the words charity and justice have the same root."
"I think that Superman is trying to give us a vision of a utopian world, a Shangri-la, so to speak. It's something to strive for," declared Grandpa Morris. "Like the Children of Israel, we may have to wander here in Metropolis for forty years before we are ready for this utopia. Who knows? Moses lived to 120, but never got to see the Promised Land. Maybe Superman will never get to see the world he's helping to evolve."
"Maybe you're expecting too much from Superman," said Clark a little awed by the hopes of the people around the table.
"No, Clark. We're not expecting a lot from Superman. We're expecting a lot from ourselves," explained Grandpa Morris. "No matter how good a leader Superman is, if he doesn't have followers who believe in what he is doing, then nothing can be accomplished. The Children of Israel trusted Moses' vision, so they packed up and followed him into the desert. We don't have to do that much. All we have to do is act in a manner that Superman has modelled for us, and then we don't need the superpowers because we will have a better society."
"Amen," said Max.
"Well, since we're going to leave two plagues to the future, I guess that now, it's time to finish the seder. If Hayley and Noah would find the afikomen that they stole from us, we could give them their gifts and we can go on."
Five-year old Hayley and three-year old Noah ran to the kitchen where they had stowed the broken piece of matzah wrapped in the special bag that Noah made in nursery school and brought it to Larry. They each received a small token. Larry then broke the matzah into small pieces and passed them out to everyone.
For the last part of the seder, Hayley and Noah went with their dad to open the door in order to let Elijah come into the house and take his traditional sip of wine. Clark watched the two young children eagerly run to the door and look for the prophet. When the door opened, a cool breeze wafted into the house. Clark watched the children and the door. He saw a shimmering light come through the door. An apparition of an elderly man with a white beard and dressed in a white robe seemed to pat the children on the head as he walked to the table and took a sip of wine from the goblet especially designated for him. When he looked up from the wine, he stared at Clark, grinned and winked.
"Did you see that?" asked Clark, but as soon as he said it, the apparition was gone.
"See what?" asked Adam.
"Elijah," said Clark.
"No, Mr. Kent, the parents just shake the table so the little kids see the wine in the goblet shake," said Adam, "When you get older like me, you know Elijah is just like the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. He's not really there."
"Oh, you'd be surprised, Adam. You'd be surprised. If you can believe that a guy can fly around in tights, then you can believe that Elijah really exists."