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.
from the April 2012 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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