I maintain that Pesach is one of the craziest Jewish holidays out there (don’t worry, there are others too!). If non-Jews knew the crazy things we did, well, they’d no doubt think we were whacked. I happen to sometimes think the same…
It’s been a crazy few days getting the flat ready and “Pesadick” ie ready for Pesach. We had to vacuum, remove, lock away and finish any food that contained leavened products, or really that weren’t specifically kosher for Pesach (nope, normal kosher food just isn’t enough this time round). We hosted 10 people for Shabbos dinner on Friday night so we really did the bulk of the cleaning (ie the kitchen) on Sunday. We cleaned surfaces, poured boiling water, cleaned around our stove tops with toothpicks, scrubbed and even covered our kitchen surfaces with plastic… I know, this stuff is crazy.
The night before Pesach one needs to do Bedikat Chametz (chametz, is what we call any of that leavened food, bread, and not-for-Pesach food that we need to get rid of). This literally means searching for chametz. It involved wrapping some bread in foil (which had to obviously be done outside as we weren’t allowed any crumbs inside having already cleaned!), hiding it in the house and subsequently searching for it… by candle light and with a feather (or in our case – if you don’t have a feather, use a feather duster). Kind of like an Easter Egg hunt, but not as fun or delicious. But it’s strangely cool, and one of the pre-Pesach things I kinda like.
Monday and Tuesday nights we hold Pesach seders, where we retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt, which is like one of the single most important events in (Biblical?) Jewish history. We recount our days of slavery and the miracles that got us out of there (Those 10 plagues?), you know, like in Prince of Egypt (except apparently that’s not entirely accurate. Oh and that cool song at the end – no, not Miracles, but we actually sing that too. Well, I think it’s cool).
Aside for retelling the story, which we read from a book called a Hagaddah, we are encouraged to ask questions – WHY? The night begins with a song (traditionally sung by the youngest in attendance) which goes “Why is this night different from all other nights?” (except, in Hebrew). Well, if you saw some of the things we did, you’d also be asking questions.
Why do we have to eat matzah? Why do we dip eggs in salt water? Why do we drink 4 cups of wine (if only this were more fun than it sounded)? Why do we lean to the left? What are all these weird things on the seder plate? Why do we have to wait so long til we eat? (OK, that’s one of my own questions) Why, why, why.
Usually, I hate Pesach. I don’t like matzah, or being hungry, or long boring seders. These days I specifically hate taking off work. But I think this year is going to be a nice one. We’ve had some hectic, cramped and impersonal seders in the last few years so I’m very happy to be spending it at home and with loads of our friends. Friends really make everything more barable.
So to all the Jews out there, have a Chag Pesach Kasher ve’Sameach* and to everyone else out there, I hope you have a little insight into some of the (cool? And) crazy stuff we get up to.
*sidenote: Sameach is pronounced sa-mei-agh (like Arikaans gutteral g sound). Yet whenever I read this word I read it in my head as sa-meach, rhyming with peach. I laugh every time at myself.