For most of my life my family has been on what I’d call the extreme side of the Pesach preparation spectrum. Changing all pots and pans, cleaning out the dust behind every book, item of clothing, under the bathroom sinks, etc. I always knew that this was part of the physical and even spiritual preparation that was particularly important to my mom. Generally though—whether in Colorado Springs, Colorado; Monroe, Louisiana; or West Roxbury, Massachusetts—we were the only family on the street timing our spring cleaning with Pesach.
Not so in Modiin – and well most of Israel. Everybody is in the mood. This morning on a run (we are not hosting tonight and I am proud to say that my desserts and charoset were all prepared yesterday!), I passed about 15 separate bonfires, attended mostly by men in kippot and young kids, burning small mountains of chametz – bread, cereal, crackers… I probably inhaled much more carbon dioxide than I should have.
I also passed by the mikveh – the men’s side door was open and there were a few men and boys walking out, tucking in clean white t-shirts, running a hand through their wet hair. On the women’s side, there was a long line of men waiting in line to immerse their pots, pans and silverware for Pesach. I could hear the clinking from down the street.
There were sounds of vacuums and more men and children cleaning out cars. There were a few scattered women, some exercising like me, others playing with kids – I assume they are also guests tonight. The rest are most likely doing what I normally do before Seder, cooking like mad, finding one last scrap of chametz that I forgot to clean out, setting the table and trying to figure out who should sit next to Cousin or Aunt So and So.
As at Hanukkah I am aware of the assumption that the entire State of Israel is Jewish and preparing for Pesach (it’s closer to 75%). There are Israeli flags hanging at every – and I mean every – light post in Modiin. The stores and shuk are overflowing with everything you might need.
And yet, I feel different than I did at Hanukkah. Perhaps because it’s warm out and everyone seems so delighted that spring has come after a particularly long and cold winter. Perhaps because preparing for Pesach among crowds rather than as an isolated family feels good. Perhaps I am just giving myself a break and enjoying the benefits of being in the majority.
All I know is that I am excited to bring our homemade date charoset and matsah to tonight’s Seder at Shaul and Tania Feinbergs. I’m even excited about the inevitable Pesach traffic. No doubt I will miss being with family and friends in Boston – but this night will be different for me.