Mah nishtana… what makes this Pesach different from all other Pesachs? Well, for one, it’s the first time it’s 3,330 years since we left Egypt. (Actually, it’s only 3,329 years but if you figure Gregorian years, it comes out to 3,330 and round numbers are so much easier to remember!)
Secondly, after so many years of Redemption, I am being redeemed differently this time around. A simpler, easier, more relaxed Redemption. For example, we all know that dirty windows are not chametz. Nonetheless, we neither need nor want dirty windows on Pesach and so they are always high up on the P.S.C.L. (Pesach Spring Cleaning List). But not this year. This year I was not Spring Cleaning. Only Pesach Cleaning. The windows got a quick wipe down without being removed and scrubbed to translucent perfection.
This was also the momentous year I used my precious, limited resources (i.e., my grandson’s) to concentrate on the truly vital jobs. Like the oven and all the pieces and parts of the refrigerator. These are jobs I usually do myself. All major appliances are completely disassembled and every screw removed and scrubbed. Even the ones no one ever sees. (Who knows where avak chametz – a bit of chametzdika dust – may seep in!)
Unfortunately, major appliances were obviously designed by male engineers, Pharaonic types who tried to recreate the horrific working conditions of the Jews in Egypt. They were not made to be taken apart and cleaned. A woman would have made two or three modal sections with no itsy bitsy parts. They could all be removed in one shot, washed, wiped and returned to their place in twenty minutes instead of six hours. And so, this year, I hired my grandson to tackle the job instead of me.
I also unpacked only one third of my Pesach kitchen supplies. I have enough dishes, pots, pans and equipment to cook for a battalion. But I no longer invite battalions to our house. At least not all at once. So why do I keep unpacking and then, seven days later, repack all that stuff, year after year after year? Why don’t I give some of the items away to my children and grandchildren? If I don’t use them, I don’t need them, right?
Right. But Pesach radiates tradition and continuity. Ma she’haya hu she’yihiyeh – that which was is what shall be. Sigh. I still have Pesach dishes from my mother’s kitchen and she has been celebrating the Seder at a Divine Table on-high for several decades! But never fear. I shall get around to giving my plentiful supplies away… one of these years.
Speaking of the Seder (or sedarim for those of you in chutz la’Aretz), one of the truly momentous differences this year will be that there will be no Seder, not even one… at least not in our house. After many years of refusal, we finally gave in and agreed to be guests instead of hosts. Our children felt that as grandparents in their own right, the time had come for them to make their own Seder in their own homes with their own grandchildren. It was time to pass the scepter on to the next generation. The truth is, the prospect of No Cooking was very appealing. And we’ll be treated royally. So what can be bad?
But nothing is simple. We were now faced with a new problem. We had to decide which kid to go to. Fortunately, there is a First Day of Pesach, Shabbos Chol Hamoed, and a Last Day, and the calendar on this 3,330th (or 3,329th – take your choice) Pesach worked out well. Shabbos was not attached to Day Seven. I’m still not sure which kid we’ll be going to when, but instead of unpacking dishes, we’re packing a suitcase.
Another drawback was the stores. After all, a guest can’t show up empty-handed, can she? And believe me when I tell you that looking for appropriate gifts for all these hosts is as complex and time-consuming as going food shopping for a battalion! Half of Israel is in the supermarkets loading up wagons of food and the other half is in the malls filling up bags of gifts! Pre-holiday time in Israel is living proof of Am Yisrael Chai.
Lest you think I am not approaching the holiday with a sufficiently serious mindset, let me assure you that Pesach in Eretz Yisrael is, as the younger generation likes to say, really awesome. Anticipation, kedusha and excitement fill the air. We are re-approaching a huge historical and spiritual moment and although it happened long ago, it’s still an ongoing story. Pesach in Israel is not just a “vacation” from school or work. It’s not just a chance to go to a hotel or a trip. We are palpably and poignantly preparing for the final Geula. The entire world is now in upheaval and we, too, are being tossed about on the waves. Like the story of Purim which just passed, nothing is as it seems. Haman’s ancient hatred of Yaakov has resurfaced in places we thought it would never appear and all the talk of universal peace, democracy, tolerance and human rights… none of it applies to the Children of Israel.
So as we pass the point of Redemption for the 3,329th time on the spiral of the Jewish year, we find ourselves at a propitious time. A time when the gates of Heaven are open and our prayers of L’Shana Haba’ah BiYerushalayim – Next Year in Jerusalem – rise up to God’s throne. Those who are already privileged to be in Eretz Yisrael add a word to the two thousand year old prayer. We say L’Shana Haba’ah BiYerushalayim Ha’Benuya – Next Year in the Rebuilt Jerusalem. We pray for and anticipate the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash.
May those of you who are still in the Diaspora also merit returning home, joining us here, and participating in the Geulah HaShleyma – the Complete Redemption.