As I stand in the Passover aisle at the local supermarket, bile rises in my throat. I hate this food. I often hate this holiday with its myriad restrictions, which despite its narrative about freedom seems to do more to enslave us than to set us free. But always, when I think about this holiday, my thoughts turn to my grandmother, long dead now.
Long after her belief in God had been shattered on the alter of Hitler’s Final Solution, she removed all bread stuff from her home and perched precariously on an old three-legged stool to take down the requisite Passover plates, pots, and pans.
Long after her hands were gnarled and wizened with age, she took out the scored and nicked wooden bowl and the double-bladed chopper, and with age-defying dexterity, chopped chicken livers for her mouth-watering signature chopped liver and then the carp for her equally delectable gefilte fish.
Long after her legs had weakened, she stood over a pot of salted, boiling water, wisps of thin, gray hair falling from her hair comb, dropping in hand rolled matzah balls, taking care to cover the pot once she was done so that the matzah balls would emerge light and fluffy.
Long after the vigor of her youth had faded, she, the daughter of a Cohen with no caste standing of her own, would set the table, boil an egg for every participant, grind haroset, and place a wine-stained Maxwell House Haggadah on every chair. Then she would cover her eyes, light the holiday candles, and wait patiently for the men to lead.
Long after the meaning of the paragraph in the haggadah, “In every generation, they rise against us to annihilate us. However, the Holy One…saves us from their hand,” had become the reality of her life, she sat quietly and listened to her son-in-law and husband read those verses.
So as I slowly fill my cart with six-dollar boxes of cereal, various oddly flavored matzah, and hundreds of dollars of sundry kosher for Passover products, I wonder, will I be the weak link in this chain? As I stand in that aisle grumbling with others about the price of the food and the thanklessness of the work involved, I already know the answer to my own question.
On Passover we learn that, “It was not our ancestors alone who were redeemed but us as well.”
It will not end with me.