While my house gets turned upside-down in advance of Passover (and no, I won’t tell you where I’m “holding”), I’ve gathered yet more thoughts about Pesach.
First of all, it is hard. Even the minimum involves hard physical labor and more important, planning. Not everyone is blessed with organizational skills or the discipline to follow a strict schedule.
But because it’s Pesach, we let things get out of hand, and pay for it in all kinds of ways. Here are some examples:
- Too much kashering. I used to kasher my microwave just because I could, until I realized I only used it once or twice during Pesach. Now I have it available until the last minute. Same with some pots. After Pesach I plan to write down how much of these things I used.
- Too much space. I used to spend a lot of time preparing cabinets I didn’t need. This meant finding a place for the contents and preparing the cabinets. Sometimes it’s easier to make do with less storage space–if you have this luxury.
- Too much cleaning. We all want to sit down to the seder in a sparkling, clean house. Even if we know that there is no halachic need (according to Jewish law) to wash windows, we take pleasure in the view. And it’s a worthy goal, especially if you start early, have lots of help and no toddlers undoing your work. I’m convinced children can hear clean mirrors and windows calling out to them. Anyway, we are all aware by now, at least theoretically, of the dangers of taking on too many cleaning jobs too close to the holiday. But it can be hard to let go of the ideal.
- Too much clutter. I just realized I bought those cute little wine glasses because my parents had identical ones. Every year we take them out of the Pesach cabinet and back again, and hope they don’t break. But we never use them. Any takers?
- Too much time on detail. Some homemakers spend an inordinate amount of time ensuring that the table settings are just so, or polishing the silver to perfection.
- Too much laundry. If you’re like me you wash most of the tablecloths and cloth napkins “just in case” (unless you have special ones set aside). Eventually I realized I could count them out according to meals and add an extra one in case. Throwing all the sheets and towels into the wash on erev Yom Tov is another custom to reconsider. We’re not eating off of them.
- Too much buying. Because we feel deprived by the holiday food restrictions, we add bottles of soft drinks or cake mixes to the cart. Then we are stuck with the leftovers after the holiday—in the pantry or worse, on our waists. And we feel the lack in our wallets. The same goes for household items.
- Too many courses and dishes. It only comes once a year, and everyone is looking forward to their favorites. But unless you’re lucky enough to eat kitniyot (legumes), the food consists of potatoes, eggs, meat and matzah with some vegetables thrown in for variety. (Not to mention fat). So if you feel it’s worth the time to cook, clean, serve, and store leftovers of these items, enjoy. If not, consider spreading the joy over the course of the holiday.
- Too much stress. You have decided not to do the windows, but the dirt bothers you. Since you are more or less on schedule you do them anyway. Even if you technically have the time, this adds stress. This is the time to play with the kids, relax, or sleep. But we feel like we are shirking if we take a break. (This feeling lessens with age.)
- Too much guilt. We feel guilty if we occasionally lose patience with our kids, and we feel guilty if the house or meals aren’t up to some imaginary standard. We feel guilty that we can’t put Pesach together with a smile, like the neighbor down the street or the newspaper columnist.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting a stunning table, clean windows or a choice of vegetable kugels. Not everything has to be simple. But we do have to keep our priorities straight. And our first priority is our family, and our family is counting on us. So we will make wise choices, pick a few extras that are meaningful and manageable, and remember that Pesach is a holiday of joy. And we want as much of that as we can get.