Next Year in Jerusalem…Last Year in Sierra Leone

We close the Seder with the words

“Next year in Jerusalem” (you can read an excellent article about the meaning of these words in the Passover liturgy here).

And every year that I recite or sing these words, I think about how cool it would be to spend Passover in Israel, and specifically in Jerusalem.  Many of our friends whose kids go to the Charles E Smith Jewish Day School (CESJDS) get the opportunity to join their kids in Israel to celebrate Passover there during their senior year trip to Israel – one reason that I would love to have our kids transfer to JDS for high school.

But, last year, I was in Sierra Leone.  I missed out of the seders, I didn’t eat a single morsel of matzah.  I didn’t get to make matzah pizza, or drive myself crazy trying to clean and kasher the house (eradicating all traces of leavened products, or anything containing a long list of forbidden ingredients).  I didn’t sing Dayenu.  I didn’t drink four cups of wine (hardly any wine to be had in Sierra Leone, although some of my colleagues scored some occasionally – mostly beer and apple cider).

And, the whole time, and the entire year up until now, I imagined the commitment I would make to celebrating Passover “properly” this year.  I would start cleaning earlier.  I would be more mindful about my recipe choices, and food preparation.  I would practice the Passover songs, so that I could properly lead the singing at the table (I can sing, and lead, but I don’t know the songs the way one would if one grew up singing them year after year, and I never seem to get them into my head well enough to be confident as the song leader).

And then, all of a sudden, my world was upside-down.  I was no longer in the home with my husband and kids, but working out a new schedule and relationship with them.  I had committed to reading Torah and the Haftarah on the first day of Passover at our synagogue, so I knew that I would be in Rockville for the first and second nights, and we had already accepted an invitation for our family to join another family for the first night.  We checked with them about coming in our new configuration and identity, and they were lovely and welcoming about it.

So, for the second Seder, I suggested to my husband (still struggling to figure out how to refer to him now – not yet ex, but not actually husband either) that we celebrate in my new apartment.  The beauty of that was that I had hardly any kitchen implements, so cleaning was going to be easy, and I also hadn’t yet stockpiled a lot of food in the cupboards, so I was actually able to almost completely rid myself of chametz.  The one challenge was that I didn’t have a dining table, so I went out to buy one.  A friend recommended an amazing second-hand store called Ryans Relics.  If you’re anywhere near Baltimore, check it out!!  It’s amazing, and has some wonderful stuff at very reasonable prices.  This is the set that I bought:

Solid Cherry Queen Anne Gate Leg Dropleaf Dining Table with 2 Leaves and Set of 6 Ribbon Back Solid Mahogany Dining Chairs by Pennsylvania House

Solid Cherry Queen Anne Gate Leg Dropleaf Dining Table with 2 Leaves and Set of 6 Ribbon Back Solid Mahogany Dining Chairs
by Pennsylvania House

It was delivered on Thursday evening, with the help of the same friend who recommended Ryans Relics staying at my place to let them in for the drop-off (I had to get to Rockville to deal with an appointment about our family situation).  I had a moment of buyer’s remorse, when I realized that my choice was not really stylistically appropriate to the eat-in kitchen space that I was putting it, but I thought that it might work for day-to-day if I drop the leaf down, and set it against the wall, and I think it does just fine, actually:

It works!

It works!

I don’t know if you can see it, but I have hung my sketched poster of Palo Alto on the wall next to the window – it’s of Waverley street, which I lived on for a few years.

So, this year wasn’t what I’d expected, but it was (and is – we’re still eating matzah for another three days) more lovely than I might have thought it could possibly be a few weeks ago.

And we continue to move forward to a future that holds many surprises.  Maybe, next year in Jerusalem!