In the year 1620, the Pilgrims sailed to the New World on a ship called the Mayflower, also known by its ancient Hebrew name, the Maccabee. The ship’s captain was a brave and rebellious man named Judah Mayflower. (To make things easier in the New World, he sometimes went by the name John Smith.)
In the New World, Judah and the Pilgrims settled in an old temple on Plymouth Rock. There, they prepared to roast a turkey, and they resolved to keep the turkey moist. It might sound like an insurmountable task, to keep a bird juicy in an unfamiliar and hostile land, but the Pilgrims were known for their Calvinist work ethic, and for their high-quality kosher poultry.
But when the Pilgrims prepared to eat the turkey that night, they found that there was only a small pitcher of gravy inside the temple. The contents of the pitcher, they could see, would not be sufficient to moisten their turkey. This greatly concerned the Pilgrims, for if they could not keep their turkey moist, their mothers-in-law would never stop kvetching about the dried-out turkey they’d prepared. The turkey was never dry, she’d say, when they came to her house and let her do the cooking.
And so the Pilgrims decided that they should pray to God for gravy, and they sent a letter inviting the good Rabbi Squanto, who was extremely helpful, and also unusually skilled at growing maize, for a rabbi, to lead them in their prayers. But a letter soon came back from Rabbi Squanto’s uncle, Mordechai, who was a doctor, informing them that the good and helpful Rabbi Squanto had died a horrible death.
The Pilgrims felt guilty about Rabbi Squanto’s death. When they had seen Squanto looking ill last Shabbat, they had told him it was probably just indigestion or, at the very worst, lactose intolerance. The Pilgrims took their black hats with the buckles from their heads in a gesture of respect for Rabbi Squanto. A Pilgrim named Saul Berenson recited the Mourner’s Kaddish.
Then the Pilgrims remembered the turkey mishegas. They continued to pray to God, and, by a miracle of miracles, the modest gravy boat that had been almost empty suddenly ranneth over with copious amounts of gravy. The Pilgrims feasted that night, and the next night, and the gravy lasted not for one or two or even three days but for eight days and eight nights, and the Pilgrims ate leftovers until they never wanted to look at or even smell turkey ever again. Even just thinking about turkey made the Pilgrims slightly nauseous, to be honest.
The Pilgrims knew that the gravy lasting eight days proved that God had again blessed the people of Temple Plymouth Rock, and taken them under His protection. In memory of this miracle, they designated eight days each November for an annual Thanksgivvukah celebration. But having no further appetite for turkey at the time, the Pilgrims planned that their next ritualized seasonal meal, in the springtime, would be lighter. Unleavened bread, they thought. Unleavened bread suddenly sounded very appetizing to the Pilgrims.
Besides, without Rabbi Squanto around, it seemed unlikely that the Pilgrims would be able to find yeast, let alone keep growing maize. In fact, now that they thought about it, they might want to skip the fuss and just buy a prepared turkey next year. Or order in Chinese, if there were any decent takeout places in the neighborhood. Maybe see a movie. The Pilgrims told themselves they’d have to start exploring.