A main prayer in the Pesach haggadah begins with the line “avadim hayinu b’Mitzrayim, achshav b’nai chorin”… we were slaves in Egypt but now we are free men.
Pesach preparations after the Exodus were minimal. Baked pita. Roast lamb, a few bitter herbs perhaps.
No oven or stove or refrigerator to be cleaned. No furniture to be polished. No rugs to be vacuumed. In short, our ancestors were free from all the Pesach preparations.
Not so us. Thinking of all the preparations beginning days before Pesach are mind-boggling. Here follows the calculations in our household. Food shopping for Pesach staples began one week prior to Pesach and were stored in a separate room.
My daughter’s apartment was cleaned and made kosher l’Pesach four days prior to the Seder. Our foods were prepared and cooked in her kitchen. My two daughters came to our apartment to clean. To remove all chametz and leavened products. To clean and burn out the oven and stove and microwave.
6 hours to remove all foods from the kitchen cabinets and to re-cover shelves with new shelf paper.
4 hours to clean refrigerator, freezer. Stove and microwave. Oven kept burning after cleaning for 3 hours. Stove kept lit for 24 hours.
Polishing silverware 4 hours.
Kashering the sink 2 hours and remained un-useable for 24 hours, to be then cleansed again with boiling water.
Re-loading refrigerator and shelves in cabinets with kosher l’Pesach food products, 2 hours.
Cooking: day 1 (7 hours), day 2 (6 hours) , day 3 (8 hours).
Baking: days 1 & 2 (4 hours)
Dusting and vacuuming (3 hours)
Work began each day at 10 in the morning and continued until 2 or 3 o’clock the next morning.
Every crumb was gathered. Portions of leaven were set aside for b’dikat chametz (search for leaven), and then wrapped for biur chametz (burning of leaven) on the morning of the eve of Pesach.
Preparing for Pesach is tantamount to slave labor. We were freed from Egyptian bondage only to become household slaves. Thank God Pesach comes only once a year.
But blessed be the hands of those who perform these tasks. Blessed be the hearts, souls and minds of those who cherish the traditions of Pesach.
And when we sit at our seder table surrounded by loving families, we can all say together, “She hecheyanu, v’kiyamanu. v’higiyanu lazman ha zeh” … blessed be God who has preserved us in life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this joyous occasion.
Chag haPesach kasher v’samayach l’kol bayit b’Yisrael.. a happy, sweet and kosher Pesach to every household in Israel.