For those of us who change dishes and pots and every damn thing in the kitchen — we are nauseous thinking of the drudgery of the next few days. For those of us who make the prep into a comprehensive spring cleaning in every corner of the house – well, we’re already bone-tired, having been working away since the day after Purim. There’s no thinking anymore, just doing. And if you’re solo on the cleaning, shopping, cooking, changing dishes and running the seder and you are not the most organized person on the planet, right now you are in hell.
The source of this annual season of servitude?
The rabbis, who, in their non-feminist wisdom turned a commandment not to eat leavened bread into a set of laws that create an enormous amount of work that falls either mostly or exclusively on the women in the house. I know, duh. This is not news to any observant or traditional Jewish woman I know. I ask you: how about an alternative minhag?
When my son was school-age, there was one pre-Pesach cleaning marathon in which I went to the local Chabad rabbi to buy some shmura matzah. I told him I had a simple idea for a different way to do Pesach that would be entirely in keeping with the commanded observances of the holiday.
I stood before him in my dirty red overalls and my red high-tops and said:
Here’s how it would work:
There is a short, time-limited period in which one must remove all chametz from one’s house. It starts the day before the first seder at, say, 9 a.m. Wake up that morning and it’s ready, set, go! You absolutely, positively, 100% CANNOT start any holiday-prepping before one day before erev chag.
Get the chametz out, start cooking, and set the table. It’s all last-minute. Figuratively and literally chop-chop (echoing that rushed exit from Egypt). Just get the forbidden stuff out of the house or into your basement … and, in the blink of an eye, it’s time for the seder. No house-wide spring cleaning, no changing silverware. No boiling of any utensils or glasses. (Yes, you can go food shopping in advance.)
Arrive at the Seder tired, breathless but all hopped up from the rushed cleaning and cooking. Yes, there’s pressure (I’m sure the Israelites were pressured as they grabbed everything and ran, so that’s appropriate, right?) but it’s of limited duration. And the expectations are, I would not say lowered, but rather, changed.
The beatific rabbi’s response? A bemused smile.
Me? I’m all for it. I’m thinking a liberation of sorts might ensue and Jewish women all over the world might come to love the holiday that has been giving them hives for hundreds of years.
I say it’s time for all of us to go public with our Pesach-prep fantasies and start some major halachic change. All ideas welcome.
I have been “doing what works for me” for over 45 years. I cook and freeze ahead, set the table two weeks before, change the rest of dishes etc. a couple days before. It’s Tradition!
It’s only because we 21st Century Jews have so much kitchen stuff. This was NOT a big deal when Jews were an agrarian society and the family ate with their hands out of a communal bowl. My advice: SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE year-round and preparing for Pesach won’t be nearly as big a drudge. A friend of mine buys nice paper plates and disposable “silverware” to use during the holiday. A nice work-around.
I love Passover! It’s not oppressive whatsoever. It’s tradition! I’m grateful to celebrate this special holiday every year. The rituals alone are so beautiful and meaningful. Dayanu! I just do what I can and focus more on the Joy, rather than the tsuris. Chag Samaech!
The work, exhausting as it is, doesn’t fall just (or even “mostly”) on the women anymore (and rightfully so)… but I like your idea! (…it’s, actually, pretty much the way it happens at our house of classic procrastinators). 🙂