Some final thoughts on חג האביב

On one of the last days of Passover a friend and I were talking after services. We were talking about the sheer amount of work  that goes into creating  Passover in our homes.  My friend said that to her it seemed ironic that this holiday that celebrates redemption from slavery is often so difficult  for women who often do so many of the domestic tasks necessary to make Passover right.
I have been thinking a great deal about this issue for the past several years. I realize that unlike most of the people I know, I earn my living doing physical labor. I’m not a lawyer, or a social worker or a writer or a college professor. I manipulate materials to create objects that get used.
One of the hard things about celebrating Passover in Boston is that so often despite it's being called "the Spring festival" in the bible it is often still clod and raw. New York is far enough south that Spring begins during Passover. I took these photos today  in the block s around my house.
For most of human history, most people spent a good chunk of their day doing physical labor. Cows had to get milked, wood chopped, butter churned, laundry got wrung, water was drawn from the well, vegetables needed to be weeded to grow. Even people who spent a great deal of their day doing what we think of as intellectual work spent a chunk of their day doing hard physical labor.
Looking up at the blooming tree.
New leaves against and old brownstone.
Now, for much of Jewish history most women did not have the privilege of studying Talmud.  I have heard some people from  the frum  world say that women don’t need to study Jewish texts because they are naturally more spiritual. Well, if you assume that I think that that statement is hogwash, then you are right.
Every year after Purim we would begin to learn the laws of  Passover. We studied Mesechet Pesachim the tractate of the Talmud that deals with Passover. So as I mopped my kitchen ceiling, stripped the wax off of my kitchen floor,  cleaned the fridge, moved the dishes, covered the counters  kashered glass wear and silver, shopped for massive quantities of food and cooked it all…  I kept thinking about all of those texts that I learned as a kid and review every year.
Leaves unfurling on Broadway.
The physical labor of making Pesach is also a spiritual one.
Blooms on the median strip.
About twelve years ago, a dear friend was dying of cancer. A mutual friend went to meditate with our dying friend. We later spoke about it. I told my meditating friend that if I were dying she should not meditate with me. Meditating makes me all sped up and anxious.

She asked me what I do  when I am anxious. I told her that I work. Sometimes I make dresses to alleviate anxiety. I might calligraph a chunk of text on a challah cover or do some obsessive bit of beading on an atara. My fried promised to never meditate with me but mentioned that some people do what is called a walking meditation. That working with intentionality does the same thing that meditating does.
So for me, chopping charoset for 90 minutes, or squeezing out all of goodness from soup vegetables or scrubbing my floor done with the intentionality of creating Pesach is work, with a not entirely physical dimension.
Collard green pasta with farmer cheese filling
I was thinking about how to express all of this as I was making  collard green ravioli today. Again, it’s hard work.
But I was thinking about our guest, a dear cousin. I was thinking about how frail my mother has become, and how I don’t know how many more years we will be able to hear her lead the parts of the Seder she has always led.
By the time I was done I felt refreshed…like I assume most people do after they meditate. My arms are tired. there will be good food to eat tonight.
מעשה ידינו כוננה עלינו
( BTW, I have already warned my kids that if that isn’t on my tombstone, I’m coming back to haunt them)


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