Shayna Goldberg

Closing up the Pesach cabinet this year

Our Pesach cabinet (courtesy)

Growing up in Great Neck, NY, a significant element of our Pesach experience was entering the closet where we kept all of our Pesach dishes.

The closet was located in a crawl space in the basement, down a narrow flight of stairs from the kitchen. To get inside, you needed to hoist yourself up onto a chair or a step stool and then lift your legs up high through the doorway.

There were a couple of shelves on each side of the entrance. Once you were in, it wasn’t so easy to pivot and rotate, so it was best to know what you were looking for ahead of time. Was it the pots stacked one inside another; the glass, dairy dishes with a design of rows of little bubbles; the multiple sets of silverware; the china seder plate, with the different scenes of the ten plagues; the wine glasses, each individually wrapped in newspaper; or the bag of kosher for Passover spices my mother kept from year to year?

Usually, one of us had the job of sitting in the crawl space and handing over items to the rest of us on the outside. It was too precarious to try to get down from the ledge with glass cups or heavy pots in your hands. We then carried them up the stairs, set it all down on the kitchen or dining room table (already covered of course) and then headed back down for more.

As children, this was all super exciting.

It was like opening a treasure chest of surprises. Inside were the haggadot we had not read in a year, the projects put away 12 months ago that we barely remembered, the headlines from last April’s newspaper and those bubble dishes that we just loved – especially for filling with  warm and comforting farfel and milk, with the perfect amount of sugar and a dash of salt.

I was thinking about all this as I put my Pesach stuff away last night.

I’m not in Great Neck anymore, but in Gush Etzion. I don’t have a closet, but a cabinet. There are no stairs to go down, but I do need a step stool. There are no bubble dishes, but, yes, some bubble wrap. And I am no longer a child, but a mother with fully grown children of her own.

And, as an adult, it is all super emotional.

There is something about closing the Pesach cabinet each year that is always deeply moving and fulfilling. Another Pesach completed. A beautiful and meaningful seder. Meals with three generations around a table. Uplifting and spiritual singing. Interesting and thoughtful conversations. Fun Chol Hamoed outings. Cherished family recipes. Delicious food. Full stomachs. Somehow, the satisfaction at the end makes all the hard work seem worth it.

But this year, with so many emotions in the air and in our hearts, I couldn’t help but think about where we will be as individuals, a country and a world a year from now, when those Pesach cabinets are next opened.

Will the hostages be home? Will Sagui Dekel Chen, whose picture adorned an empty chair at our table throughout the week and who never left our minds and our prayers, be celebrating with his family?

Will the war be over? Will all the soldiers be whole and safe?

Will this country be united? Will we have maintained our focus on what is most important and fundamental?

Will our enemies be destroyed? Will we be free from the fear of Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran?

Will Jews living around the world still feel safe? Will they be able to publicly identify and feel protected?

Will my family, friends and neighbors be healthy? Physically, emotionally, mentally?

When we finish the recitation of Hallel at the seder, there is a short prayer where we state that we have finished our service as it was meant to be performed, in accordance with all its rules and laws. We then ask God that we be privileged to perform it once again (in the Temple).

This year, as I closed the cabinet, I prayed my own adaptation of the close of the paragraph:
Pure One, Dwelling in Your heaven,
Raise up this people, give us strength to move forward, and wisdom to know how.
Soon, lead the hostages,
redeemed, into Zion with great joy.

!לשנה הבאה בירושלים הבנויה
Next year in Jerusalem rebuilt!

And so the cabinet is sealed up, and the Pesach prayers are over. What helps me now is counting the Omer.

While my mind wanders to the future, the Omer grounds me in the present. It forces me to declare what “today” is, and what today will be for me. A day of hope. A day of resilience. A day of trying to give strength to others.

I don’t know where we will be in twelve months, but in the meantime, we will make each day count.

About the Author
Shayna Goldberg (née Lerner) teaches Israeli and American post-high school students and serves as mashgicha ruchanit in the Stella K. Abraham Beit Midrash for Women in Migdal Oz, an affiliate of Yeshivat Har Etzion. She is a yoetzet halacha, a contributing editor for Deracheha: and the author of the book: "What Do You Really Want? Trust and Fear in Decision Making at Life's Crossroads and in Everyday Living" (Maggid, 2021). Prior to making aliya in 2011, she worked as a yoetzet halacha for several New Jersey synagogues and taught at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School in Teaneck. She lives in Alon Shevut, Israel, with her husband, Judah, and their five children.
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