Reflections on Passover

For Jews the world over, the 8-day celebration of Passover (seven days in Israel – long story, which I won’t go into here…if you’re curious, you can check it out here) was observed last week, and ended at sundown on Tuesday night.

When my husband and I first started being more observant, a lifelong process, it seems, we didn’t realize that there was more to it than hosting or attending a seder – the ceremonial dinner marking the first night of Passover (the first two nights, actually, but we didn’t even know that!!).  I remember the first few years, I just avoided bread and pasta, but I didn’t realize that many other foods contain chametz, prohibited foods defined by containing wheat or other agents that could remotely be considered to be leavened – such as yogurts, and salad dressings.

As our observance and level of knowledge of the “rules” increased, Passover became a bigger and bigger deal for us –

  1. in the week before Passover, we do a thorough cleaning of the house, culminating in a lovely tradition of “searching for Chametz”, done by candlelight (or, more safely in our home, by flashlight), with a wooden spoon and a feather (or, more practically in our home, a dustpan and brush wielded by two young boys), to gather the last (planted) remaining crumbs of bread/chametz, which we then hold until morning and…
  2. ceremonially burn that chametz in our barbecue!!  what could be cooler for a young child!
  3. the dear husband has been in the habit of taking the boys out to the Original Pancake House for our last meal containing chametz – this year, I was able to join them!
  4. then a day of preparation (and not eating chametz, but not eating matzah either, to make the first experience of eating matzah at the seder that much more “special”.  hmmmmm.).
  5. and, then the seder!!  this year, we hosted the first night, and were guests on the second night.  the boys participated more, although they were pretty pooped by the second night.  we tried to get the little one to take a nap during the middle of the first day, in preparation for the second night seder, but he resisted.  it probably would have helped the older boy as well.

part of the reason for me to post this is purely to remind myself of things I want to remember for next year!

  1. make lists!!  i really loathe making lists, but i actually went to three different grocery stores at least 10 times during the two days preceding our first night’s seder – on one occasion, all i needed was a bunch of fresh dill!!  the receipt for that trip was $1.89!  lists may be loathed, but must be made!!
  2. we also made a list this year of the non-perishables which we have left-over, which we packed away and will use next year!! i do not need any more kosher-for-passover confectioners’ sugar, thank you very much, nor cinnamon, nor cloves!!
  3. next year, i really do hope to actually practice the melodies – i love to sing, and there are lovely tunes for much of the seder, as well as traditional songs that are sung at the end of the seder, but it seems, if I want to sing them, I need to be comfortable enough with the songs to be the song leader.  maybe the boys can help next year.
  4. this year, i had promised our first night guests that we would put together a little play for the children to perform, but, in the chaos of getting everything ready, we didn’t manage it.  i need to prepare this better next year!!  drama helps kids stay engaged.

there were so many amazing resources to refer to in preparing and experiencing the holiday, and this year, I found this podcast from the program On Being with Krista Tippett to be particularly helpful (and several of my friends remarked that they also found it helpful): AVIVAH ZORNBERG — THE TRANSFORMATION OF PHARAOH, MOSES, AND GOD

And, now we are in the midst of a 49-day period of counting – the Counting of the Omer – which a dear friend is blogging about for the second year in a row!!  I’m in awe of her dedication, but I’m pleased to note that so far, on day 9 of the Omer, I have managed to count each day!!  It’s not that hard, but I don’t think I’ve managed a full 7 weeks yet!  Maybe this year is the year!


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