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 themĀ  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!

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