Years ago, I happened to be in Florida over Passover and a married friend asked me to accompany him to a particular jewelry shop tucked in on the second floor of a building in a Miami Beach alleyway. Apparently this shop did 90% of its trade right before Passover when Orthodox Jewish husbands would literally pile in five deep to purchase expensive tchotchkes for their wives.
This tradition was a holdover from when Jewish women literally slaved away to make Pesach at home. By the time the seder started, the wife was so exhausted and so out of sorts a significant peace offering was needed if the seder was to proceed without trauma.
For the desperate husbands I saw at that Miami Beach jeweler – real estate titans, hedge fund moguls, corporate lawyers, doctors and dentists – a seder at home was at most an anthropological memory embedded deep in their DNA. For them Passover at a 5 star hotel with a round-the-clock Viennese table and sashimi on the breakfast buffet, a major rabbinic luminary conducting services, and a gilded detention center for the kids, was a given. The most challenging thing the missus had to endure in preparation for the 8-day fressfest was choosing which two dozen pairs of shoes to pack. Nevertheless traditions don’t die easily, especially the tradition of a costly bauble for the eishes chayil before the seder – even if the seder was catered by the Fontainebleau Hotel.
I am reminded of this now because of the coronavirus, which has resulted in the forced cancellation of thousands of Passover vacations at glorious resorts from Miami to San Diego, from Palm Beach to Tuscon. Suddenly, and with hardly any warning, folks who believe it is a law in the Torah to spend upwards of $3,000 a head to chomp their way through Passover in the lap of luxury, must now remain in their six bedroom McMansions in places like Lawrence, Englewood, Beverly Hills, Skokie and Outremont, making do on their own.
Where does one start? Are there enough caterers? Dishes must be bought, new pots and pans. The silver goblets have to be koshered and polished. Without a lobby or boardwalk, where can one showcase all the new dresses and shoes? As for help, forget about it — the demand for cleaning and serving staff will be through the roof. Smart illegals might band together and auction their services to the highest bidders. Because the desperate bidding could easily reach numbers that can support the family back in Mexico for years.
But the biggest winners will no doubt be the local jewelry shops who never had a shot at the millions in merchandise that passed hands before Passover in Miami. And this year a mere Cartier watch won’t cut it. Because the baleboosta knows the price of everything and the value of herself. And even G-d can’t save a hedge fund mogul if he comes up short.