Observe the month of
Aviv, and keep the Passover unto the LORD thy God; for in the month of Aviv the
LORD thy God brought thee forth out of
by night. Egypt
Almost a week after Pesach has finished, I find that I’m
still exhausted. I find that I’m still upset at the fact that most of the
holiday was spent in the kitchen. I find that I’m sick of my Pesach dishes and
‘making do’ for one week with equipment that is not as good as my regular
stuff. I find that I’m still frazzled by trying to figure out what
to cook on Pesach for Ashkenazi people who don’t like cooked carrots (aka
tsimmes) squash, eggplant, cauliflower or broccoli. I mean, what’s left?
(Chocolate, that’s what’s left.) I find that I am especially frustrated that
after 42 shopping trips, about 1,000,000 NIS spent on food, 36 straight hours
of cooking and baking, my kids would open the fridge, stand there for half an
hour, then proclaim that there is ‘nothing to eat.’ (I hid the chocolate.)
|A traditional Seder Plate|
What I don’t find is my favorite chametz knife, which got put away somewhere at the last minute before the holiday.
No doubt, Pesach is an exhausting, frustrating time. But a week
later, I am more prepared to look at it objectively. There are those old
clichés: I worked hard, but thank G-d I have the strength to do the work. It
was very expensive, but thank G-d we have the money to spend, and jobs to earn
more money. Family members can be truly aggravating, annoying, exasperating,
and infuriating, but thank G-d we are surrounded by family.
Ok, so it’s still a bit too soon for me to be 100% sincere about
that last one.
I love Pesach. The weather is beautiful (here in
Israel – not in London where it was snowing, and certainly not in Winnipeg where snow isn’t even news), the flowers are blooming, the kids
are off school, and the whole country is on holiday. Everyone eats matzah.
Bread is not to be seen (unless you really look for it, I suppose, and I did
|Matzah Ball Soup|
The best part of Pesach in
Israel are the various and varied customs. Each community has its own
foods, songs, stories. It is the custom of Jews from Tripoli, I learned, to sit on the
floor for the seder. Yemenite Jews go for a little walk with packs on their
backs during the Seder to symbolize the exodus. While in our home, everyone
dips their finger in the wine and shakes out 10 drops as the 10 plagues are
recited, in some Sephardi homes only the father will dip his finger so that
others will not be "contaminated." In other communities, the guests
are not allowed to even look at the wine.
One of the main differences, and topics of discussion, is how to
make charoset. I grew up making charoset – that sweet concoction that
symbolizes the bricks the Israelites were forced to make in Egypt, and
alleviates the taste of the bitter herbs when shmeered on matzah or lettuce –
out of apples, nuts, wine and cinnamon. However, Moroccans (and other North
African Jews) make it from dates instead of apples; Persians use a variety of
spices with over a dozen kinds of fruits and nuts, including dates,
pomegranates, bananas, oranges and pistachios. Venetian Jews make charoset from
chestnuts, rather than almonds or walnuts and apricots instead of apples. Some
Greek Jews mash raisins in vinegar, and add pepper and even bits of brick!
Yemenite Jews use chopped dates and figs, chili pepper and coriander. I once
had charoset made with bananas – in an Ashkenazi home. And of course, we all
know that we can't mix charoset with chopped liver. We'll get charoisis of the
liver. (Say it fast, in a Yiddish accent. You'll get it.)
|A different sort of Charoset|
I’ll stick with apples and walnuts for now.
(For more customs from different communities see here, but there are a million sites online.)
I think what I love most about Pesach is celebrating Pesach in
Israel. Pesach, like all Jewish
holidays, is meant to be celebrated in Israel, where the weather is
beautiful and the flowers are blooming, and where miracles happen daily. It’s
on Pesach, with its plethora of customs, that the miracle of the ingathering is
so palpable. Jews from around the world, from Afghanistan, Columbia, Ireland,
Yemen, and Zimbabwe, and every country in between, have come to Israel, with
their customs and their foods and their way of life, to live and grow old, to
build homes and bear children, to work and to contribute, to celebrate and,
yes, to mourn.
Tomorrow is Yom
HaZikaron laShoah ve-laG'vurah (יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה; "Holocaust and Heroism
Remembrance Day"), when Jews of
Israel and around the world remember and commemorate the more than 6
million of their people who were murdered by the Nazis and their assistants
between the years 1938-1945.
In his Bar-Ilan speech in 2009, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
The right of the Jewish People to a state in the
Land of Israel does not arise from the series of disasters that befell the
Jewish People over 2,000 years - persecutions, expulsions, pogroms, blood
libels, murders, which reached its climax in the Holocaust, an unprecedented
tragedy in the history of nations. There are those who say that without the
Holocaust the State would not have been established, but I say that if the
had been established in time, the Holocaust would not have taken
place. The tragedies that arose from the Jewish People's helplessness show very
sharply that we need a protective state. The right to establish our sovereign
state here, in the Israel , arises from one simple
fact: Eretz of Land Israel is the birthplace of the Jewish People. Israel
In other words, we are not here in
Israel because we were persecuted, oppressed, abused, enslaved,
tyrannized, expelled, forcibly converted, and murdered in all the countries of
the world. We are here in Israel because it is our homeland, because here our people were born, and
it is here in Israel that we will ensure that Jews, no matter where they are in the
world – Yemen, France, , or in , Holland Iran Israel itself – will not be persecuted for who they are again.
“The Holocaust, said Irwin Cotler, former minister of justice and
attorney general of
Canada, “did not begin in the gas
chambers – it began with words.”
We are hearing those words again today: colonialism, conquest, oppression, apartheid. Blood libels are springing up yet again. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that "the very existence of the Zionist regime is an insult to humanity" and that "the Zionist regime and the Zionists are a cancerous tumor.” And no one censored him. No one even blinked.
We, the ingathered, remember the six million. We remember that
they were murdered because of who they were, not what they did. They were
murdered because the nations of the world turned a deaf ear and a blind eye.
They were murdered because they had no land, and no government, and no flag,
and no army.
There are nations in the world that are preparing for another holocaust. Other nations continue to turn a deaf ear and a blind eye.
But this time, we have our own Land, our own government, our own flag and our own army.
May we be blessed to continue gathering in our People, to build up our country in justice and holiness, and to celebrate our holy days in happiness and health.
And would it be too much to ask to be able to find my knife?
|Then and now|