Last year, when my son and daughter-in-law first suggested that rather than hosting several of my children with their families for Pesach, we pack a couple of suitcase and spend the entire holiday as their guests, I really didn’t know what to think.
On one hand, I love preparing for the holiday. There’s a real sense of accomplishment from sorting through our belongings, cleaning every nook and cranny, and I feel deep pleasure and pride as my home takes on that special kosher l’Pesach glow. But although I find the final days — as the deadline closes in, and women barely have time to nod at each other in the stairwell — exhilarating, they are also physically and mentally exhausting. Can a mountain climber standing on the crest of Mt. Everest ever begin to fathom the sense of accomplishment a Jewish woman feels at 2am as she eats her first kosher l’Pesach, freshly fried chremselech in her gleaming Pesachdig kitchen? But on the other hand, at this stage of my life, I can forget about climbing Mt. Everest, or staying up half the night turning my kitchen over.
And then there’s Pesach itself. With so many guests, the house in transformed into one huge bedroom, and the grandchildren are all cranky because they miss their beds and sense of routine. And to tell you the truth, although I usually manage to keep a smile pasted on my face, I also find it difficult to constantly be available for everyone, without down time for myself.
So, with heavy hearts, my husband and I decided to accept our son’s invitation for Yom Tov. It turned out to be a very wise decision, because I ended up spending the last two weeks before Pesach in the hospital with a serious infection. I arrived home the day of bedikas chametz, and unable to get out of bed, my next door neighbor hid the traditional ten pieces of bread. I’m pretty sure that there was no chametz in my house (and if there was, it was annulled) but my kitchen looked like it always does. A couple of pots and a few dishes drying in the dishrack, towels draped through the cabinet handles, and none of them were kosher l’Pesach.
During the Seder, I was m’kayem the mitzvah of “mesubin” lying prone on the sofa, with my legs elevated, while being served like a queen. And although it wasn’t our own Seder (in other words, I wasn’t the one who did all the cleaning and cooking), my husband was given the kavod of leading it, just as he has always done. A different family of children and grandchildren stopped in for a visit each day of Chol Hamoed; by then, I was able to take short walks to the playground and fully enjoy the einiklach without having to worry about the mess. It was the pleasure of family, without the accompanying exhaustion.
This year? Personally, I don’t see how I could possibly cope with making Pesach. Yes, of course, I’ll clean my home and get rid of the chametz, but the pressure of those last few days, as we turn over the kitchen and stock our home with all the perishables, is something that I can no longer deal with. Yes, it’s painful to admit (especially to myself) that I am not invincible, but at the same time, I am so grateful that I have children who want to be m’kabed their parents. And besides, through giving my children the opportunity to be m’kayem the mitzvah of kibbud av va’eim in such a beautiful manner, my grandchildren are receiving a crucial lesson in how to be m’kabed their own parents.
And isn’t that what it’s all about? Generation to generation, it is our actions, rather than our words, that form the golden links of mesorah.