One of my sons always says he knows Passover is coming from the combination of his itchy eyes, affected by seasonal allergies, and the smell of brisket cooking in the basement when he wakes up. (Check out my method on “cooking while you sleep.”)
I sense Passover is coming when suddenly the grocery store is reorganized and checkout takes as long as a dental cleaning (especially when every other person is either doing their “big shop” or “buying just one thing” so we all keep giving one another cuts in line). That’s when I can detect the rise in blood pressure in every woman of every stripe. Whether it’s the ladies going away for Passover who need to pack the car (complete with wardrobes for every weather possibility) full of chametz snacks for the way and clean the car upon arrival, or the women hosting their daughters- or mothers-in-law for the first time, or the older woman from a distant neighborhood stocking up on kosher-for-Passover yogurt wearing vinyl gloves and a K-N95 mask tied with strings, the store bustles with life.
Just this morning, I was standing in the checkout line at a time of day when I thought I would beat the rush. I didn’t. So I decided to take another perspective to entertain myself. While I watched from my place in line, I saw some ladies entering the store, discussing in comparison their plans and preparation statuses and asking management if more farfel will be forthcoming. I heard in my head the Eighth Day song Avraham that, rhetorically, asks Avraham Avinu: “Are we the children that you dreamed of?”
Similarly, I tried to imagine what it would be like if Yocheved and Miriam Haneviah would show up here in this store or take a walk through this neighborhood. What would they see? What would they notice? The long lines, the black cherry soda already out of stock? The tired women checking their lists and the man returning to the line after paying for a full cart, then realizing the ketchup was near the door all that time? (Yes, he can go ahead of me.)
Or would they notice the piles at the street curb, awaiting garbage pickup? The mountain of trash bags full of discarded once-precious cheap prizes, pocketed snack crumbs, and sticky wrappers from childrens’ bedrooms and backpacks? The discarded broken ride-on toys? (Leaving space to store plastic bins of chametz pots?)
And would they see the tired and ripped sofa at the curb one block over, so patiently awaiting the chewer-upper? Wouldn’t they be delighted for the mother whose children jumped, read, nursed, crashed, and reviewed homework on that couch? Wouldn’t they bless that mother to welcome home her yeshiva bochurim and her daughters’ future shidduch prospects while her toddler jumps on the newly acquired cushions?
Would they rejoice at the children exiled to eat their snacks on folding tables in driveways and bochurim vacuuming car seats? The bursting piles of empty boxes from new sets of pots in the keilim mikvah?
Would they venture into a few stores and observe the toddler waddling away before the saleslady can check her toe in her first pair of Shabbat shoes? The tailor drawing chalk lines on the bochurims’ new suit pants? The young bearded men in Target purchasing bright turquoise boxes filled with newborn diapers? High school girls taping counters and taking hours to find the clothing that will be kovodik and just the right style? The bochur buying new shoes l’kavod yom tov, thinking of the footsteps he will soon take on cobblestones in Jerusalem (or in a hotel lobby)? Would they peek inside school windows and find boys and girls coloring Haggadahs, learning our story in multimedia?
Do we see it? Can we imagine their nachas? Even if we haven’t carved even five minutes a day to try to prepare with a Haggadah or listen to inspiring shiurim by phone or podcast, can we imagine the women who risked their lives, who worked slave labor yet nurtured their marriages, who hid their infants – so we can hold ours – looking on, watching us with wonder and delight?
The women who packed for geulah not knowing what daybreak would bring? The women who brought instruments, and then stood at the sea even before it split? And those who afterwards sang shira? Can we take a second to rejoice in their pleasure in us, and in Hashem’s pleasure in us, before we ask if the store ran out of baking powder?
I try to remind myself that no matter how I get these preparations done, we are not only making memories; we are connecting to our collective memory and remembering what it’s all for, where we are heading, and what we are holding on to. How do we keep meaningful perspective that with every ounce of our time and effort,
we are creating the setting, the home, the backdrop for the mesorah to be heard and to take hold while we keep our eyes on the destination. Passover and the other yamim tovim are called Moadim (destinations), yet the bracha we make at Kiddush blesses the z’manim, the time. The bracha ends with “mekadesh haz’manim,” not, “mekadesh hamoadim.” That means, as I heard Rebbetzin Tehila Jaeger teach, that the z’man, our time, is what is sanctified – by us designating it for the sake of the greater picture: for Yom Tov and for mitzvot. The z’man is what is so holy. And at this time of year, with our time spent in so much activity, this means that every moment of our actions toward that destination is kadosh.
So every moment of cleaning, shopping, sorting, planning, disposing, purchasing, prepping, and scraping is toward that destination while in itself it is kadosh. May we be zoche to see it that way, even for a moment while standing in line. Yes, you may go ahead of me with your one package of string cheese!
Julie’s brand new book Making It Mine: Tools to Chisel a Personal Pathway and Mine the Torah’s Wellsprings is available on Amazon.
Julie is the author of Pesach While You Sleep, and other books found here.