Apr 11, 2008

Pesach and things.

So I find that here at work, I spend a bulk of my time doing one of about four things -- Yelping, Twittering, Google Readering or Blogging. It's not the most productive thing in the world, but it's also why I've claimed Shabbat as my own e-free break from society. I rustle up the web during the week and get a day of rest to recline and detach. So as I spend the bulk of my day prowling, I come across a lot of interesting stuff, I think.

A Simple Jew linked to this entry on Cross-Currents by Jonathan Rosenblum about the Five-Star Pesach. It's just what you might expect, analyzing where the Pesach week is going, especially when you don't have to worry about cleaning since you can just spend the week at a resort, right?

I thought this was an especially interesting link to come across considering this morning an Orthodox friend and I were discussing Pesach. I was lamenting that I've really only had two Pesachs on record, and that accounts for three seders. My first seder was a Hillel seder and it really set the course for what I hoped seders were. It was interactive and full of discourse and delicious food. The second seder was a community seder in Omaha that was equally wonderful and had about 150 or so people, though it didn't feel huge. The last seder I went to was last year and it was the 20s/30s seder at my former Reform shul and it was a Chicago-wide celebration that drew hundreds of people. The seder, though, was not good. They didn't even have Kosher for Pesach soda, which was pretty shocking (though when I thought about it later, a shul that can't provide Kosher wine on Shabbat probably wouldn't provide Kosher soda on Pesach). I was lamenting to my friend that Pesach is only once a year. For new Jews it's hard to get the rhythm and the traditions and everything down when it comes only once a year. Shabbat? Oy. Shabbat is a cakewalk now compared to the once-a-year holidays like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and Pesach.

My friend was telling me how she has gone to the same seders at her in-laws for nearly a dozen years now. I was asking her whether the Orthodox community has community seders, and she didn't know. I'm guessing that the answer is no, except at these Five-Star Seders, that is. But it was definitely food for thought (badaching) and seeing that piece by Rosenblum seemed to fit in well.

I get really anxious around this time of year. I'm trying to plan out my Pesach week, making sure I buy everything I need so I don't resort to Matzo pizza for every meal, all week long (though I love, love, love matzo pizza). I've printed recipes, talked to my friend about her recipes, plotted gigantic quantities of kugel and charoset, and attempted to create a plot for recipes. But I'm just so horrible about planning ahead. I sometimes wish there *were* someplace I could disappear to for a week to just have all the chametz-free food there, easy as pie. Though, I will mention said friend did offer to make a little extra of her dishes to send my way, and this, well, is a blessing indeed.

At this time of year, though, I find myself worried that I'm going to mess up. That I will forget a certain quirk about Pesach and will end up noshing something secretly laden with chametz. This is why this year I'm shopping in the Kosher for Passover section of the Jewel. Hekshered items are, well, a little easier on the mind I guess. So far, though, I've only procured one box of matzo and one box of matzo meal and one box of the matzo ball soup mix. I need to get to town.

I read yesterday that Chassidim do not mix their matzo with water -- AT ALL -- on Pesach. They eat it only in its most pure form. Now, I don't know about you, but this seems like a difficult endeavor. I also wonder whether smearing cream cheese on a piece of matzo or something similar is even allowed? Since liquid would meet matzo. And the charoset? It has liquid in it, thus, when it hits matzo it would be forbidden, nu? So much I don't know! And this is the girl without a seder plate to her name, not to mention a matzo cover. Sigh.

On that note I was reading a few of the essays that came in my 60s Essays for 60 Years booklet I got at the debate the other night and was constantly reminded how much I need to learn about Hebrew, Jewish history, religiosity, spirituality, tradition, culture. It's so much, so vast. It just keeps multiplying! With every little bit I learn, there is a little bit more. It's almost frustrating at times, but at others it's such a blessing to have this never-ending possibility of learning.

So I'll continue to plan my Pesach week meals with the knowledge that sticking to a plan will be easier for me in the long run. I'll save some coin, maybe lose some weight, and hopefully after I get the meals figured out I can sit down and really consider what Pesach is and means. Until I get around to that, though, go read what True Ancestor has to say about Pesach over on his blog.


Anonymous said...

Hi Chavi,

1. I agree on the kosher seder thing. My family does one but I don't go because it's rushed, not kosher, and I really prefer a more serious and believe it or not, long seder. My family understands but probabally thinks I'm weird. :)

2. Every single Chabad has big seders for community. And even if there isn't a huge one, if you really wanted to, call any Chabad rabbi and tell them you need a place to go. But, if you haven't been to a Chabad seder before, ask what the customs are or sit by someone who knows and follow their lead.

3. That leads into the whole wet matzah thing. Chabad in particular is super strict about wetting matzah in any way, shape or form. Matzah will be provided in a zip lock baggie. When you want to eat it it goes from bag to mouth, not on the plate even. Another thing about a Chabad seder is that they use nothing artificial, nothing with flavoring added. Whatever you eat, you can guarantee it will be cooked pretty much only in shmaltz (a.k.a. chicken fat and juices.). If there's a delicious sauce on something, it's chicken fat, if the green beans taste unique, it's shmaltz, get the picture? Nope, not even salt for Pesach. These are only customs for the most part. Go to a Sephardic seder and you can wet all the matzah you want. You can eat rice and lentils. Sephardic is the way to go and there is no LAW saying Ashkenazi can't eat the Sephardic way, it's a custom passed down and in most cases held on to.

4. What do we do? Well...I clean top to bottom, especially the kitchen. As in, I remove everything from every cupboard. I wipe down every shelf with a good cleaner. I replace everything and then tape that cupboard shut with painter's tape. I do the same in the fridge but of course I don't tape that shut. I make one tin foiled section of chametz, that has not been opened. IF I have opened chametz it is given to a neighbor or trashed. I close off that foiled section so it can't be seen. The pantry gets the same treatment. Usually it's all foiled shut except one or two shelves for Pesach. After that every surface gets the foil treatment :) I do the stove top, and cut holes for the burners. I clean the oven, but don't use it. I have a kosher for Pesach coffee maker and toaster oven (for matzah pizza) :)
My point...everyone does it different. I go all out in the kitchen but I eat Sephardic style for Pesach.

5. Lots of great things for matzah! I'll share my two faves:

Avocado, hard boiled egg whites, onion, and seasonings smooshed on matzah.

Smooshed banana on matzah. And if your Sephardic you can do Peanut butter and banana on matzah. :)

OH, and don't forget to make matzah brittle, evil calories, to die for taste~!

zahavalaska said...

I so know what you mean about holidays being trickier for new Jews. Really, how is one supposed how to learn songs one sings once a year! My Pesach history is spotty, too, and I still haven't decided what form of K4P I'm keeping this year? My co-teacher said to me, well what do you always do? And I said, well, last year I was living at my mom's house so I bought my own K4P (hekshered) food but cooked and ate it in her kitchen. Last year I allowed myself beans, too, namely soy because I was pretty close to being vegan and thought it better to be lenient and stick with it than be strict and slip up. This year I know there won't be beans, because I eat fish and dairy now. But I severely underestimated the K4P foods available here and I don't know what I'm going to do!

KosherAcademic said...

What you need to remember, Chavi, is that each year you will probably do more and take on more. I mean, I'm frum and every year I clean more than I did last year or I find out that something I thought was okay isn't (or vice versa). Initially I would think "OMG, how was I possibly Kosher l'Pesach last year?" But I realized that this, too, is part of it. Hashem knows you are doing all that you can, and each year you take on a little more or it gets a little easier. G-D doesn't expect us to do more than we can handle, as long as we're constantly growing.

Chag kasher v'Sameach!

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