Introspections on Erev Pessach

Passover begins in a few hours. But we’ve already entered into the Passover space, in a way, because last night we needed to check our house for chametz (leavened bread products) and today, from around noon, we were no longer allowed to eat chametz. At the same time, we are also not supposed to eat matza now in order to keep it as a special food for tonight’s seder.

I find myself feeling so emotional as the holiday approaches. Not necessarily a bad emotional. I’m touched by this time, it feels so special. So many of us are running around, nervous about getting the last important things done before the chag comes in. I have been feeling such a strong sense of community over the last few days. I have been here in Vancouver long enough that I bump into people I know almost every Jewish place that I go.

The other day I was in the Oakridge supermarket that has a lot of kosher l’Pessach food and I bumped into someone there (who happened to be buying bread – no, not for Pessach). On Sunday I went to the Orthodox synagogue, Schara Tzedeck (don’t even think of asking where that crazy spelling came from) and it was just the most wonderful pre-chag hustle and bustle. The NCSY kids and rabbis were giving their yearly service of car washing. There was a man with oven mits and a big tub of boiling water who helped me kasher (make kosher) a couple of kitchen utensils. I went into the mikva to toivel a new pot and pan. This time I was alone but I recall last year when it was a social event, bending far over to dip the new dishes, pots and cutlery, in the special pool of water.

Being involved in the community has such great benefits. To be able to go to Schara Tzedeck that day and know the NCSY rabbis and even a couple of the high school students, made me feel at home.

Today there was birkat hachama (the blessing of the sun). I covered it for the paper (article to come in a week or two). It was 8:30am on a cloudy morning and it was so nice to watch Jews from all over the city (and even from outside of the city) and from all different affiliations, make the effort to come together in order to look at the cloudy sky, which actually mean that we couldn’t even say the blessing! But people came anyway and there were psalms recited, some shmoozing and then the crowd dispursed to continue with the day.

Today is a first for me. Not only the blessing of the sun, but also, it is the first time I am totally alone. Every year (OK, besides one year in Moscow) I was with family, either in Israel, Toronto or Montreal. Last year I was here without family, but in a relationship. So all the preparations I did were not only for me.

This year, I did almost everything alone and it is only for me. There were moments when that felt sad to me but for the most part, I am incredibly grateful that I have been feeling very psyched for the holiday. I have seder plans that I’m excited about and I just have a good feeling about the holiday this year.

There is a bigger picture here, though, that explains why I’m so grateful for feeling good. I remember Pessach three years ago. Things had gotten so difficult for me religiously that I remember literally dreading Pessach. I felt like no matter what I’d do, it wouldn’t be good and I wouldn’t feel good. It was so depressing. In the end I had a very nice time at my best friend’s place with some friends but in general it was a very unhappy, difficult time for me.

Thank God I’m in a different place. That’s all I can say.

This past Monday, I lead a model seder for the seniors at the JCC and I was told that for many of the attendants, this would be their only seder. I am thinking about people like that right now. For all the hype we give the holidays, in the end, there are so many Jews who do not even celebrate them, barely feel them at all. Is this sad? To me it is. Today I stopped by L’Chaim (where I work with elderly) and almost felt guilty, like I was showing off, telling them how busy I was going from the birkat hachama to eating my “last chametz” at Sabra, to visiting them  and then off to do more shopping for the holiday. I am experiencing my elevated emotional state leading up to this special holiday while many, if not most, of them won’t even be celebrating. At least I had the great honour of giving them a model seder the other day.

It’s 2:15pm and I feel like I’ve been up forever, for everything I’ve already done today. I am not cranky, despite having the difficulty of finding something to eat that isn’t matza or chametz (anyone who keeps this custom knows how many eggs and potatoes it is possible to eat within half a day) and despite a slight lack of sleep and a tired body from all the work. These things make me feel good because they all mean that in a few hours, Pessach will arrive. Many of us will sit around a table with family, friends and strangers (that’s where I’ll be), feeling the energy of the seder as we begin singing, “Kadesh, Urchatz…”

Happy Pessach everyone! I hope you find it really special, meaningful and very, very fun!


16 thoughts on “Introspections on Erev Pessach

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  1. Hey, hey! I really enjoyed this post!

    This is actually the first Pesach in forever I’m looking forward to as well, despite the fact my plans are a bit odd for the chag..:-) I’m really excited about the seder tonight, actually. Kol Hakavod on all of the prep work you did!

    And yeah, I always wondered why it’s spelled Schara Tzedek? haha!

    1. I’m so happy you enjoyed this post! I enjoyed writing it. I’m SOOOO happy for you that you’re looking forward to Pessach. It really is something to be grateful. So what that your plans are a little strange. :) It’s all part of the journey. Chag sameach!

    2. Oh, about the spelling. One theory I heard was that the new Russian immigrants who started the shul (if that is even correct), must have chosen a strange spelling since Eng. wasn’t their mother tongue. Just a theory. :)

    3. Oh, about the spelling. One theory I heard was that the new Russian immigrants who started the shul (if that is even correct), must have chosen a strange spelling since Eng. wasn’t their mother tongue. Just a theory. :)

  2. RE Birchat Hachama…we had sun in White Rock and did the blessing. We stood in the sand on White Rock Beach, facing East, with the large, white rock in front of us and did the small service, with the special blessing, singing and some dancing. Quite a sight for the walkers and joggers getting in their morning exercise. It was very windy, with choppy water. Much colder than we all expected, after the very mild day yesterday.

  3. My experience is so different. Pesach brings out the worst in me… the hypocrisy (both mine and my community), my rejection of the seemingly OCD-like rituals and laws, and reveals my lack of faith. Which sucks, because it would be so, so nice to believe in a God that gives a damn.

    And if you don’t believe in the foundational elements (read: revelation), how do you buy into the minutiae of Jewish law (totally rhetorical… I know).

    So on that note, I will observe Passover willy-nilly. I will grapple with the seder rituals and try to find meaning that is fitting for a 40 year old skeptic.

    And though it’s worse than rape and murder**, I will continue to visit Starbucks for my coffee and 18% cream.

    ** based on a convo I had last year with some observant friends. And yes, they truly believed having a coffee at Starbucks on Passover is worse that rape and murder.

    1. Wow, Avrum, that is so depressing! I’m not saying that so you’ll stop sharing your feelings, I’m just sharing my feelings back. I totally get your sentiments about God, wanting to believe He’s kind and cares about us but having trouble believing that. I hope you read my post here “Is God good?” and the back and forth as a result. I guess I have my ups and downs with Him and I want to believe in Him and to believe that He’s good and that if I don’t see that, it’s only because I’m not able to see the big picture (which I do believe is totally a good reason, I mean, I am tiny).

      Whatever the case, it’s depressing going into the holiday with those feelings. I’ve spoken about God with Holocaust survivors that I work with and most of them do believe in something bigger and are relatively traditional, more than the born and bred Canadian elders that I know, for the most part.

      OK, not sure if those facts add anything to this discussion so I’ll end here. Chag sameach? Chag kasher vesameach? : ) Enjoy your forbidden coffee.

      1. Deena,

        I think in some ways G-d takes on endless attributes that we need at given moment. Sometimes we need anger, and so G-d is angry. At times we feel loved, and therefore G-d is kind, and so on….

    2. Avrum,

      Some of my feelings around Pessach as similar to yours. Personally I have always struggled with an idea of just G-d who knows Jewish people will suffer quite horribly, knows what Egyptians will do, sends Jewish people there anywhere, and then punishes Egyptians in a pretty sadistic manner. WoW, and that is just G-d?

      Of course there is always an argument that we (mere humans) don’t know any better, and these was and is needed to allow our reality to exist. But I have this nagging feeling that our reality is all wrong, and there is a mechanism of deception in all of this…

      It is pretty hard to rejoice over these events when all I can think is “Wait a second, G-d is all powerful, He could create a different reality where we could come to be a nation without these horrible events occurring to us.”

  4. Deena – it’d be good to spend a shabbos with you. We’d have a lot to discuss.

    On a side note, I miss passover at the Community Kollel :(

    Let’s touch base after the Yom Tovs and compare notes.

  5. I’ll be at Kollel 2nd night. I’ve never been to a seder there but I do LOVE kollel. Yay it. Yes, we should compare notes afterwards. :)

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