I’m grateful to be able to share Passover with some of my family this year. It’s been too many years since all of us have been together for anything other than a funeral.
I wish that were different but have learned to be grateful for whatever is. The truth is my three children celebrate Passover differently. The most religious, David, is head of a family that begins getting ready for Passover weeks before the holiday. Everything in his home gets thoroughly cleaned.
Even books are checked for chometz. There are special dishes, and pots and pans that are only used during Passover. According to ultra-Orthodox practice, the physical preparations correlate with increased spirituality. Passover preparations are serious business and take a lot of time.
The seders start after services, usually around 9:30 p.m. The festive meal is often served about 11 p.m. And the seder doesn’t end until the wee hours of the morning. My son Jed and his family look forward to participating in the seders, but things remain the same in their kitchen. My daughter Michelle and her family are modern Orthodox. The kitchen gets turned over, and everything is cleaned according to tradition.
A typical seder in her home is complete by 11 p.m. Everyone in the family participates in two seders.
This year I invited my family to join the 100,000 Jews who celebrate Passover in Orlando. I had no idea there was a thriving Passover industry, complete with kitchens already made kosher for the holiday.
What surprised me is that even though more observant Jews will not be in their homes during the eight-day holiday, the intense Passover preparations still take place.
I’m selling my chometz, as is the tradition, but given I’m going out of town I don’t intend to go through the motions of special cleaning. To prepare, I’m fine with thinking about the meaning of Passover and preparing myself mentally for the holiday that celebrates our freedom from being slaves in Egypt.
I know Jews are commanded to put ourselves in the shoes of the slaves who left Egypt, but I have a hard time imagining that. I am familiar with being enslaved by attitudes and habits that inhibit freedom and make us prisoners of our own mind.
Each Passover I become more intentional about freeing myself from thoughts or practices that no longer serve me. I’m commanded to be grateful and happy and take the opportunity Passover provides to re-evaluate where I am regarding staying aware of my blessings. I’ve learned happiness is a choice. I’m grateful Passover reminds me to keep that in mind.
Arlene is a freelance writer who contributes to the Atlanta Jewish Times and teaches writing to seniors.