What I Learned: It’s time to come home

Passover has a message for the conscience and the heart of all mankind. For what does it commemorate? It commemorates the deliverance of a people from degrading slavery, from most foul and cruel tyranny. And so, it is Israel’s – nay, God’s protest against unrighteousness, whether individual or national.”   Rabbi Morris Joseph

Before Pesach, I began to write about shopping for the week, but I started to cry, so I stopped.

I also began a blog about cleaning and who cleans the most obscure areas of the house, but I started to cry so I stopped.

Then there was the one about the minutiae of the laws of the holiday. That one really made me cry.

Ditto when I tried to write about recipes, menus, resting during the week off work (yeah, right!), and the delights of a full house (hahahahaha). 

Now I’m after Pesach, and life is slowly returning to normal. I found the regular salt and pepper shakers ‘neatly’ put away before the chag. That’s always a good sign. Here are two things I can’t find: the icing decorator doohickie, and the funnel I use to pour sugar into a bottle of homemade lemonade or ice tea, neither very essential items. Except, this week is my son’s birthday and I have to decorate a cake for him, and I when I went to make some ice tea as a pick-me-up after putting away four boxes of dishes and I spilled the sugar all over the counter.

Three days after the hoopla, I can look back and assess.
This is what I did:

  • I spent 4,382 hours in the kitchen making mock chopped liver and 72 cakes (two were left over).
  • We went to Tel Aviv and got stuck in traffic.
  • I crossed things off my lists (a feeling of great satisfaction).
  • I watered my herb garden.
  • I spent time with my kids
  • I played with my grandson.
  • I was honored to host several guests for seder, four of whom I met for the first time. I now have four new friends.
  • I was blessed to be surrounded by my family.

All in all, not bad.

This is what I learned:

  • 72 cakes might be too many.
  • Cumin is kitniyot

A few years ago, we were hosted by our good friends M&J for seder. They introduced us to the concept of having a ‘theme’ for the seder, where every attendee must create some sort of dvar Torah based on the decided theme. That year, their theme was to connect a Jewish historical figure with some part of the haggada. It was a great success; my kids wrote a play based on the discussion by five rabbis who stayed up all night discussing Torah. The five rabbis became the Marx Bros. My husband wrote about Henry Kissinger. I paraphrased the words of the great Jewish song writer Robert Zimmerman:

How many Matzot must a Jew eat tonight, before you can call him a Jew?

And how many veggies must a Jew eat tonight, and how many is too few?

Yes and how many times must a Jew dip tonight pretending he just doesn’t see?

Yes and how many times does a Jew have to lean before he’s allowed to be free?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.

The answer is blowin’ in the wind. 

Since that year, my family has happily adopted the theme idea. Two years ago, we had to connect some part of the haggada to a movie (I took Gone With the Wind, but I can’t remember the connection – something about what Gerald said about the Land). Last year was popular songs, and this year we went all out. We had to bring an object of some sort to the table and explain the connection. Some guests brought puppets of ten plagues; my youngest brought her older brother’s old T-shirt, which she now wears, to show how, during Bnei Yisrael’s 40-year sojourn in the desert, their clothes never wore out; my other daughter brought a cosmetician’s practice hand – complete with beautiful nails – to show G-d’s ‘strong hand and outstretched arm’ when He took us out of Egypt. Hubby brought a piece of garlic, a piece of the Iron Dome (which had fallen on our house during last year’s Pillars of Defense operation), a map of Israel, and a stuffed Lemur. I’ll let you figure those out.

My oldest wouldn’t cooperate in being a model for the plague of the slaying of the first-born, so I brought a clipboard.

There is a passage in the Haggada that states,  “I (G-d) and not an angel, I and not a seraph, I and not a messenger,” referring to who redeemed the Children of Israel from Egypt. 

The emphatic emphasis that it is G-d who is our redeemer us teaches us two things:

1. A good manager (as symbolized by the clipboard) delegates jobs and responsibilities. When there is a big project such as freeing a people from slavery, (or cleaning for Pesach), it seems that it would be far more efficient if there are more people participating in the work. But when it came time to free Bnei Yisrael, it was G-d alone who was responsible. This teaches us that when an injustice is witnessed, we, as a people and as individuals, are responsible to right the wrong – I and not my secretary, I and not some government official, I and not ‘someone should do something about this’.

2. It was G-d himself who took us out of Egypt. Today, scientists try to explain the plagues, saying that they were natural phenomena, and the story is a myth. Through the text, however, we know that it was G-d who took us out: Not a messenger (i.e., Moshe), not an angel (i.e., strong winds; muddy, blood-like waters; disease; overpopulation), not a seraph[u7]  (i.e., fear; social responsibilities). G-d took us out of Egypt for a purpose: to give us the Torah and to bring us to the Land to live a Torah life in the Land. In[u8]  the same way that, now, in the 20th-21st centuries, G-d Himself has brought us to the Land and protects us, not a messenger (i.e., the sochnut, or the government, or El Al) and not an Angel (i.e., the IDF; the IAF; Iron Dome; bomb shelters), and not a seraph, (i.e., anti-Semitism, Zionism, economic problems). G-d Himself wanted us out of Egypt/Europe/Asia/Africa/America/Australia and has brought us here to our Land.

In the next six weeks, the Jewish people will commemorate and celebrate the following holidays:

Yom HaZikaron laShoah ve-laG’vurah (יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה; Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day) 28 Nisan, April 28 – Postponed one day because of the Sabbath.

Yom Hazikaron l’Chalalei Ma’arachot Yisrael v’l’Nifgaei Peulot Ha’eivah  (יום הזיכרון לחללי מערכות ישראל ולנפגעי פעולות האיבה‎, Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism) 5 Iyar, May 5 – Postponed one day because of the Sabbath.

Yom Ha’azmaut (יום העצמעות; Israel Independence day) 6 Iyar May 6. Postponed one day because of the Sabbath.) 

Pesach Sheni (פסח שני; Second Passover) 14 Iyar 14 May 

Lag B’Omer  (ל”ג בעומר) Iyar 18 May 18 

Yom Yerushalayim (יום ירושלים Jerusalem Day) 28 Iyar May 28 

Shavuot  (שבועות) Sivan 6, June 4 

All these holidays (as are all Jewish holidays) are special to the Land. 

This year, come home and celebrate with us.


About the Author
Reesa Cohen Stone is a Canadian-born Israeli, who has been living in Be'er Sheva for a lot of years, with a husband, a bunch of kids and grandkids. We all try and see the fun side of life.