Passover Inspiration in Israel



   
    April 2012          
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Passover: The Holiday of Renewal and Hope

By Amy Lederman

Passover in Israel is a magical time of year. The winter rains and chilly air are replaced by a flurry of activity and sense of renewal that is unequal to any other season. Flaming poppies, black-eyed Susans and Queen’ Anne’s lace fill the fields while birds travel back to the Hula Valley to build their nests. In the north the Banias River, swollen with winter rains, tempts even the most timid nature lover to take off her shoes and socks and feel the springtime mud squish between her toes.

But it is not just winter waking up to spring that intrigues me. It is the transition of a country moving from chametz to matzah, a country in the process of cleansing itself that makes me marvel at the power of Jewish tradition and faith.

On the eve of Passover during the year I lived in Israel, I walked with my husband for more than 3-miles from our apartment in Bakka to Mea Shearim, Jerusalem’s famous ultra-orthodox neighborhood. The city was working double time to get itself ready for Passover and Shabbat, which, like this year, fell on the first Seder night. The clanging of pots and dishes resonated as restaurants and bakeries frantically labored to convert their kitchens for Passover. A symphony of sounds accompanied us as we moved through the streets. People laughing, babies crying, closet doors banging, horns blasting; the air was charged with energy and purpose. But the smell was what got to me. The dense smell of the last vestiges of burning bread products hovered over us like a cloud, reminding me of fall in New Jersey when we would burn big piles of leaves in our driveway.

Huge cauldrons of boiling water lined Strauss Street enabling people to kasher their pans and utensils for the holiday. I thought of our tiny Jerusalem kitchen and how, earlier in the morning, my family and I had spent hours soaping down the counter tops and washing out the cabinets. We felt so clean and tidy afterwards, “all spic and span” as my mother would say. There was something deeply gratifying about the process of cleaning up our home, as if we had lined our nest with downy, new feathers. We put our house in order, just as the Seder creates an order to the telling of the Passover story.

As we walked home along King George Street, we watched the city in its closing moments of cleansing; a community making its way from winter to spring, dark to light, chametz to matzah. The streets were hushed; the smells of burning bread and cake all but gone.

I understood for the first time the longing that for centuries has dominated the Jewish heart and spirit. Passover is not just a time to cleanse our kitchen cabinets of last year’s cookie crumbs and Next year in Jerusalem is not just a physical call to bring people from all over the globe to the most holy city in the world.

Passover is meant to inspire all Jews – as diverse and conflicted and divided as we may sometime seem, to work together to bring a sense of order and renewal, a sense of purpose and hope to our lives, our future and the world. It is a holiday that gives us a chance to renew our commitment – to our faith, tradition, and each other – to live a life of dignity and freedom.

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from the April 2012 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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