Still in Egypt

Yesterday, at services, My friend Anne came up behind me as I was chatting with a friend and said " Every conversation here is about the same thing, cooking!".

Ann is right. Everyone at synagogue is doing something to get ready for Passover. We are all working hard. People are scrubbing their houses, bringing cartons of dishes down from the top shelves of closets. Lots of hard physical labor is going into to getting ready for the holiday.

I went to an Orthodox day  school for both elementary and high school . As soon as Purim was over each year, we learned the laws of Passover. There are lots of them. Each year we  learned those laws with a bit more depth.

As I work my way through the preparation, I am beginning to realize something that we were not taught while we were learning those laws. One of the fascinating things for me about Passover is how seder serves not simply as a religious ritual, a retelling of the story of slavery and deliverence into liberation, but over the course of the evening we experience that transition from slavery into freedom, we don't just tell of the bitterness but consume those bitter herbs, taking that bitterness into our bodies only to drink the wine of freedom and eat the matza of liberation.

I realize as I squeeze all of the solids in my chicken soup  through a linen towel, that the two hours that it takes to reduce all of the solids in my soup to their pure cellulose content, that all of this work before the holiday is in itself part of the observance. Removing the wax from my kitchen floor is as much a part of the mitzvah of Passover as eating the matza. It's a little like those Zen practitioners whose form of worship is sweeping the floor.

In my time at The Orthodox day school, we didn't talk about this aspect of observance a whole lot. Perhaps it was that most of my religious studies teachers were men. In this post- feminist age when more men are involved with the nitty gritty of housework I think there is a greater understanding of the ritual in the work of preparation itself. My rabbi, who is a man who knows his way around a kitchen, has mentioned more than once about how you can observe Shabbat all week when you select beautiful produce and say to yourself " I'm buying this for Shabbat."

"In every generation we are obligated to see ourselves, as if we were the ones freed from Egypt."

Still reporting from the bonds of slavery.....


  1. I have much appreciated your reflections on Passover preparations. They have helped me reach into the depths of my own faith tradition. Thank you. I've written a reflection and referred to yours on my blog.


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