Each year, the thought of Passover makes me want to run away. It’s a labor-intensive, heavy-on-the-sighing holiday, especially in Israel. The traditions and message are nourishing, but for me they get lost in the pre-holiday hype, in the burden of preparation, and in the myriad prohibitions which turn us back into disgruntled slaves.
If the 10 biblical plagues paved the way for the Israelites liberation, the 10 modern plagues of Passover have me reaching for my passport and looking for a simpler way to celebrate freedom.
1. We Go Over the Top. We can’t just have a cozy little family meal, tell an epic story, and go home to eat unleavened bread for a week–no. We have to clean our houses from top to bottom, buy new clothes, change our cutlery, crockery, and cooking utensils, buy presents (huh?), prepare and eat a feast extraordinaire with a huge crowd of relatives, and take the kids out for an adventure every day of the holiday! This is meant to celebrate our liberty?
2. Everyone Complains the Whole Time. Women complain about cleaning and men complain about the women cleaning. Everyone complains about the shopping, cooking, food, indigestion, traffic jams, family, and the long school vacation. Another glass of whine please!
3. Supermarket Hell. Straight after Purim, supermarkets completely reorganize their shelves to make room for the “Kosher for Passover” products, forcing you to wander around searching out your groceries like a dysfunctional GPS. Then comes last-minute shopping with the multitudes, not to mention the Mother Hubbard’s Bare Cupboard of a store during the festivities.
4. And a Healthy Dose of Guilt for Me Please. Passover is like manna from heaven for charities; they go into turbo-charged overdrive, inundating us with texts, calls, collections in the supermarket, at school, at work, and at shul. And we should help, the cost of all that food is staggering.
5. The “Most-es” Competition. Who painted their house from top to bottom as well as cleaning? Who’s more kosher? Who has more guests? Who slaved the longest and cooked the most dishes? And the winner is…
6. The Traffic Jam Shuffle. Evening of the seder in Israel, and it feels like it would be quicker to make the exit from Egypt to the desert via the Red Sea than from Tel Aviv to the North. Are we nearly there yet?
7. Seder Blues. Who wrote the Haggadah and what were they on at the time? Probably some lawyers who were hoping to confuse us with their long-winded clauses and highfalutin language. And let’s be honest, who has the patience to wait for Cousin Shmuel to read and interpret every single line when all everyone really cares about is, “When do we eat?!”
8. Just One More Matzah Ball. Somehow, despite the limited number of foods we can eat, we still manage to stuff ourselves silly, gain weight, and groan about diets. Pass the mufleta.
9. Constipation. It’s a plague. Enough said.
10. Family overdose. Mishpacha, you know we love you, but there’s a limit. You can have too much of a good thing.
And yet, despite the burdens, we will clean and shop and cook and have a BIG FAT Passover, because that’s what we do, and without it we are lost in the wilderness. Whats more, these tribal traditions spawn cherished memories; the annual unveiling of Bubbe’s brisket, our family’s galloping rendition of “Chad Gadya,” the predictable argument over which cousin really found the afikoman, and the pride and prejudice when it’s your little one’s turn to ask the four questions.
So, this year, I will not run away, but say Chag Sameach and L’Chaim.