Sunday, April 13, 2014

Erev Pesach

Wine glass in hand, waiting for my husband to come back from Ma’ariv, the evening service, I am surveying my domain – not a speck of chometz, forbidden leaven, in sight. All is ready for Bedikas Chometz, the ritual search that ensures that no chometz has been accidentally overlooked. What a satisfaction! For many years now my husband and I have been going away for Pesach. Except for our second year as a married couple, when we stayed home full of exciting intentions of creating the Seder of the decade, but ended up “alone”, i.e. just him and me (which was rather anti-climactic), we have been going to either Eretz Yisrael; or to a certain college campus where my husband would supervise the kashrus situation while I would relax to my heart’s content, and frequent a Chinese massage parlor in my spare time (when I wasn’t busy relaxing); or to our cousins in Baltimore, where the livin’ was easy.

This year, however, we had a dilemma. Eretz Yisrael was off our financial map; my husband was refusing to supervise more kashrus in the middle of the Seder, or to put up with the lack of spiritual atmosphere of the Hillel house; and the Baltimorons had up and moved to our town, now living only a half-hour’s walk away. Don’t get me wrong: I love them, and I am thrilled to have them close by, but – it is no longer a question of “going away”. Going out of town for ten days, even to a place like Baltimore - which is not known for any extremes of exoticism - can be quite alluring, because, after all, it is a change of scenery, but sitting in a guest room two miles from home just doesn’t have quite the same cachet.

Our solution was Solomonic in its ingenuity: spend the Sedarim with the Baltimorons (for whom we will now have to come up with a more suitable epithet); then moving back home on Chol Hamoed, the intermediary day, and gracefully accept invitations by our friends. By Hashem’s grace and kindness, we have both friends and invitations. So this spring, for the first time in many years, I have “made Pesach”. Every Yom Tov, holiday, has to be “made” – it doesn’t just “happen” by itself, but Pesach requires some extraordinary making.

Slightly nervous about the now unaccustomed task ahead of me, I made sure to start early.
“The bedroom is already kosher l’Pesach” I was proud to inform one of my very close friends three weeks before Purim, expecting to hear some well-deserved praise.
“Did you wash the walls?” she said, because she is not right in the head.
“No, I certainly didn’t” said I.
“Why not?” she inquired in a kind of plaintive tone.
“Because there is no chometz on my bedroom walls. Kitchen walls, possibly – bedroom walls, definitely not.” That should give her something to think about!
“You could repaint the walls instead” she suggested – clearly bonkers.
“Yes I could, but I am not going to” I replied, sort of doing that teenage rebellion thing that I never really mastered in younger years, but could do to perfection now, should the need arise.

So, well, yes – the apartment has now been rendered both clean and chometz-free, and (with many thanks to my excellent cleaning lady), I must say that it has been a pleasure. The mustiness and dust of winter replaced by freshness and a breeze with a scent of spring; order in the ranks of the household goods; repairs and replacements of the little things around the house that should have been addressed before, but weren’t until now. Because I worked too, mind you – not for me to only sit and watch, along the lines of the main character of Three Men in a Boat, who observes that “I love work; it fascinates me; I can sit and watch it for hours!”

There is both a satisfaction and a sense of adventure about it – the home is transformed; its regular permanency challenged (perhaps somewhat reminiscent of the upheaval of Succos – after all, both holidays commemorate the leap of faith and the upending of the “normal”; they are both feasts of transition); and for as long as I have been making Pesach, I have always found excitement as well as an almost primeval contentment in the moment when I am placing all my brand-new groceries and implements in one of the kitchen cabinets, newly-scrubbed and covered with some stupid paper that is always a little bit askew. For eight days I will be camping, as it were, with different pots and pans, different counters and cook tops, different foods – or rather, with a different limitation of permissible foods (ah, the delicious Pesach cakes!) – which all contributes to giving me that sense of adventure.

We are on a hike. Where are we going? Hopefully to Yerushalayim – meaning both the geographical city, and the spiritual city center of our hearts.

May your journey be a happy one – have a kosher and freilichen Pesach!

Shalom Uv'racha!