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Archive for the ‘passover’ Category

Pesach

I’m finally starting to get into Passover now (good thing my MIL is doing the seder). It’s the kids that do it for me. They are so excited about the holiday. You know, we converted types always talk about Hanukkah vs Christmas in December, and the party line tends to be that it isn’t just a direct trade, and this weekend has reminded me of that.

The kids have already gone through the excitement of Purim, all the dressing-up, noise-making and candy. And here, only about a month later, we get another holiday. The kids love the seders – getting to dip their fingers in the wine to count out the plagues, finding the afikomen and getting money in return, staying up unbelievably late, visiting cousins.

Cleaning the house and removing all the chametz – bread products – gives them a real sense that something big is going on. Asher is very concerned this year that we haven’t been doing enough cleaning (what, me, not cleaning enough?) and has taken it on himself to doing some sweeping and the like. At bedtime tonight, I told him tomorrow is going to be fun, as our job for the seders is to make dessert and my kids love to help with baking. He said, “Okay, baking is fine Mom, but there is something much more important we must do first.” Huh? Who is this kid and where’s my son? “We need to clean, or Hashem will be angry with us for not doing a good enough job.” (This is what happens when you send your kids to religious school – they end up being so very … religious.)

We had a little chat where I suggested that perhaps God isn’t that judgmental. Although I’m sure many would disagree, that’s what me and the boy are going with for now, and he agreed to bake with me.

Boo arrived home from her model seder with a handmade hagaddah. A hagaddah is basically a guide book for the seder, with the story of the exodus, the prayers, the songs, when to eat the various ritual foods. In the earlier grades in school, the kids always come home with a handmade one.

She was showing it to me a couple days ago. The front cover has flaps that open up. She’s painted them blue and when you open them, inside she’s drawn several people. She told me : “See these flaps? They are the sea. And even though they are blue, do you know what the name of the sea is? The Red sea. And see these people inside? They are Jews, crossing the Red sea!

There are five Jews, by the way – Moses and his immediate family, I guess.

She’s so enthusiastic about the whole story. I realized that is something I simply love about Pesach, and all the other holidays. When kids are four and five years old, they really, really get into the stories behind the holidays. The stories live for them at this age.

I had the radio on, and the newscaster mentioned Egypt. Boo’s ears pricked up and she said delightedly, “Hey, Egypt! We were slaves in Egypt! But a long time ago, right? Not Bubby and Zaidy or Oma and Grampa, right?”

It reminded me of Pesach when Asher was this age. We went out of town, to J’s brother for the seders, and arranged to visit my room-mate from university and her family one day. In discussing our plans with my brother-in-law, I mentioned my former room-mate’s name, which is very unusual, and he asked it’s origin. I told him she was born in Egypt, although she grew up here. We thought nothing of it until Asher came up with eyes huge and said, “Your friend we are visiting is Egyptian?”

You could see the concern on his face. He was clearly convinced my friend was on the phone right that moment with Pharoh, arranging our personal return to slavery. He was relieved when it turned out to be an evening of playing with her kids and eating sushi. He said to me quietly, “Egyptians are pretty nice now, Mama.”

That’s the other thing I like about celebrating the holidays with kids when they are little. Despite the fact that every holiday is about, as I heard one comedian tell it: “Some bad people wanted to kill all the Jews. They only killed some of the Jews. So, we eat!” the kids firmly believe we are living in ‘happily ever after’ where no one hates the Jews any more. I hold onto that for as long as possible.

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Jasper is off to the vet for the day, where they are going to – as the nurse put it bluntly – castrate him. They will also x-ray his hips, microchip him and give him flea and heartworm medication. I’ll have to take out a second mortgage just to get him back.

It’s already weird around here without him, but it is cold and freezing rain outside, so I’m not going to miss taking him for his walks today.

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Passover (pesach is the Hebrew) is coming up in an awful rush. With it comes our trip to Vancouver. My niece is having her bat mitzvah and since the kids are off school over pesach, we decided to go down right after the seders and have a little vacation there. While obviously preparing for a family of five to spend their vacation on the other side of the country takes a lot of extra work, it is mitigated by the fact that I now don’t have to prepare my house for passover here.

If you keep at all kosher, preparing for pesach requires removing all bread products from the house, replacing them with matzah products. Depending on your level of dedication, this can be an enormous (and expensive) task, even removing items that are kosher and apparently have nothing to do with bread and replacing them with kosher for passover versions. It also requires a thorough cleaning of the entire house in order to ensure that there not be a single crumb of bread anywhere.

I’m not that dedicated. I remember when Maya arrived home from kindergarten one day and told me in a tone of voice only a know-it-all five-year-old can use that I needed to get started on the spring cleaning, because we had to wash everything before pesach. I looked up from the computer and said, “Go to it!” Then we had a discussion about how different people practice their Judaism in different ways, like some people walk to shul and some people drive, and some people spend weeks cleaning their houses top to bottom in preparation for passover and some … don’t.

We do get rid of all our bread products, though, and stick to matzah.

For 8 days, say good-bye to this:

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And this:

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And this:

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And say hello to this:

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Mm-mm, cardboard! Several years ago, I went to my doctor during pesach about something non-stomach related and we were chatting about passover, and she said, in a tone of utter horror, “You aren’t eating matzah, are you?!!!” I confessed that maybe a little. She forbid me from touching it ever again. I eat it at the seder’s though. Since J is celiac, he can’t touch the stuff even at a seder. But the kids eat it.

Passover is a complicated holiday, with different traditions dictating different practices. Ashkenazi Jews, who are primarily of European descent, don’t eat rice or beans during the 8 days of the holiday either. Sephardic Jews, who are mostly from Spanish-speaking countries, but also Arab ones like Iraq, do eat rice and beans. Orthodox and Conservative Jews in the diaspora (outside Israel) have two seders (the ritual dinners), but Reform and Reconstructionists only have one. In Israel, there is only one. (Jewish holidays are all based on the lunar calendar and determined in Israel. Originally, since Jews outside Isreal didn’t know exactly when to have their seder, they had two, just to make sure. But with instantaneous communication in the modern world, we do know exactly the right time, so the Reform and Reconstructionist movements have abandoned two, while the others stick with tradition.)

J and I stick with one seder, unless his parents bully us into attending a second one. We also declare ourselves Sephardic for those 8 days, or we (particularly J) would stave to death.

I have to confess, I don’t love Passover. One seder is nice, and having the kids off school in spring can be lovely for a couple of days. But after three or four days, the whining over matzah starts, and the boredom kicks in and it is a downhill spiral from there. Which is why I am so delighted to be spending most of it Vancouver, which has always been kind and sunny for me. And preparing for a vacation is so much more interesting than cleaning.

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