Sunday, February 17, 2008

Remembering We Were Slaves

Here in New York, Purim and Pesach have become inextricably intertwined in my psyche. The day after Purim, you can see most of Brooklyn descending on the shops in a melee to start their Pesach preparations. The shop at my corner is, by motzei Purim, almost fully turned over; they keep a single aisle chometzdik until a few days before Pesach.

Every other place I have lived, you could comfortably turn your house over in the weeks following Purim, and that was without all the conveniences that Brooklyn offers: kosher l'Pesach food galore, inserts of every size and shape, plastic ware in a mind-boggling array. And, you can find several choices for each possible item you might think of purchasing in practically every heimishe shop. What then is the source of this frenzy? I can only surmise that it stems from self-imposed pressure, or chumras. Or both.

When I was growing up in Canada, Pesach was my father (olev hashalom)'s holiday. No single holiday, with perhaps the exception of Shavuot, held more significance to us as a family. I remember clearly my mother diligently, calmly preparing the house and assembling whatever "convenience foods" she could find: a few boxes of non-schmura matzah and matzah meal, some nyfat and preserves, a tub or two of margarine, and a good amount of tea and drinks. Everything else was prepared by us or catered by one of the two caterers in town. Our house was neatly lined with either wax paper or tin foil, our Pesach dishes were trotted out, and we did the bedikah chometz calmly and happily. Never did the preparations seem stressful or insurmountable.

How sad then, that in the midst of Brooklyn, I find myself coming to dread Pesach...or at least its preparations. How, I find myself saying as soon as Chanukkah is over, will I be ready in time? And here we are, a few weeks prior to Purim, and I already find my stomach in knots. I have planned out my cleaning schedule, since with my new job I have only Sunday afternoons to clean, and am mentally gearing up for this coming Sunday when my attack on chometz will begin.

That being said, I have added one new item to my cleaning itinerary this year; I am dusting off my mindset. Because I want to remember that, despite the swirls of panic around me, there is no reason for Pesach preparations to incite trepidation. Instead, my overall goal this year is to not only ensure my apartment is chometz-free, but that I perform my preparations with the kavannah of my childhood, namely with an aura infused with calm, purity of intent and love of Hashem.

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