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Ellen never felt she could disclose her feelings to anyone.  Those around her appeared to be content, busy with the busyness of their lives; no matter how devoid and pointless everything seemed to her.

Restless and unsettled, Ellen eventually graduated high school and went to university.  Though she knew nearly next to nothing about Judaism, she wanted to make a communal Passover Seder with her college roommates, who also were Jewish.

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The night before the Seder, Ellen spoke to her housemate Debbie.

“What should we do about dishes?” she asked her.

“What do you mean? What about the dishes?”

“Well, we are supposed to have different ones for Pesach,” Ellen tried to explain.

“Why?”

“Well, you know… because ‘this night is different than all other nights.’

Every year my mother always brings out special white dishes for Passover stored in the cupboard above the refrigerator. That’s our family tradition and I think it has something to do with reminding us that we went out of Egypt.  That’s how we celebrate: using different plates and eating matzo.”

“Okay, that makes sense,” Debbie said. “So what do you suggest we do?”

Ellen thought for a minute and then burst out, “Hey, I have an idea! I’ll be right back!” Ellen left Debbie sitting in their small kitchen while she ran down the stairs to the other student apartment.  After knocking vigorously for half a minute their neighbor opened the door.

“Hey, Jennifer, tomorrow night is Passover! We’re making a Seder that you are welcome to join!’

“Really? That would be great!”

“The only thing is that we need ‘new’ dishes.  Ones that are different from the ones we use all year. So I had an idea: everyone in your apartment is also Jewish, so what we could do is exchange plates and silverware for the week, and then we will all have ‘new’ dishes for Passover!  That should be okay, right?  It’s only for eight days and it helps everyone!”

Jennifer caught Ellen’s enthusiasm.

“Yeah, I’m sure that will be fine.  Can we all come to your Seder?”

None of them realized that the “new” dishes needed to be completely free of chametz!

 

Ellen loved Pesach: it was inherently meaningful.  Good triumphs over evil.  The wicked are destroyed. The oppressed are freed from bondage.  Ellen loved Seder night and she loved reading the Haggadah, even if it was a Maxwell House one with no commentary.

It wasn’t until she graduated from college that she made it back to Israel.

On the way, Ellen traveled, spending three weeks in Russia, in Minsk, Moscow, Yerevan, Tiblisi, and Yalta, before she returned to Moscow for the flight to Paris. It was part of a spiritual journey, to physically feel like a refugee escaping from Europe, as she made her way through France, Germany, Austria and Yugoslavia before she finally reached Pyranus, Greece to take a boat to Haifa.

On deck Ellen watched with anticipation as the ship slowly made its way… home. She was determined to fully explore every aspect of what she would need to know so she could understand what it meant to be a Torah observant Jew. She had free choice and she wanted to hear what Judaism had to say about everything. Was she truly “open-minded” or did she just give lip service to the concept? Would she give the Torah a true chance or would stereotypes block her view from seeing with clarity?

Jerusalem! Holy city of truth, of heart and soul and mind! She had arrived! The numerous mysteries and the plague of questions that had haunted her throughout her life could now be addressed in a place where seekers were known to have found refuge.   She would be able to breathe in the spiritual sustenance that was inhaled in the very air, and drink from a never ending well of living water.

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Chava Dumas is an educator, certified doula, and women's health support counselor. She is the author of “Prepare for Pesach…B'simchah! 40 Lifesaving Lessons to Help You Make It to the Finish Line,” a book that inspires women to celebrate every day of life. She can be reached at dailysimchah36@gmail.com.

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