I wasn’t expecting my declaration of ‘it’s time to clean the car for Pesach’ to be met with a cheer of delight from my 4 year old. It stood out to me, in stark contrast to what I had been hearing from some of the women that I teach about how much they dread the Pesach preparations. As one woman said to me, ‘my mom drove us crazy about cleaning for Pesach, she went so overboard – I now dread Pesach.’
My son’s sweet reaction of joy to Pesach cleaning got me thinking. He’s new to Pesach – it’s only his 4th year. It’s probably the first year that he has learned so much about Pesach in preschool. His associations with Pesach cleaning are what he has learned in school, that Pesach is an exciting time, filled with songs, games, the arts and crafts and activities that he has been doing in school in preparation for the upcoming holiday.
As his mother, the duty is now on me to preserve that sweet joy with the holidays. The holidays, and perhaps Passover in particular, are an incredible time for connecting with our families, for creating memories and for passing on our values and our traditions. Along with the memories of Mom or grandma’s special Passover dish, we pass on our feelings, beliefs and values around Judaism to the next generation.
Unfortunately, a lot of negativity can get passed down at this time of year as well. When the family dynamics are not healthy, spending more time together becomes something to dread instead of to look forward to. When the parents are stressing about the holidays, that stress gets passed down instead. If this rings true to you, and your associations towards Passover are not positive, know that you can take charge of it. You can start to create different associations.
In the morning prayers we talk about the truth of Torah being both desired and sweet. Torah is desirable – it gives our lives meaning, it is the connection to G-d and our pathway to goodness and eternity. But it also has to be sweet. There are things in this world that are desirable but they can also be difficult, for example some medicines that a person has to take for healing may be desirable but a difficult pill to swallow. Not so Torah, a Torah way of life is desirable and it also sweetens our life.
Sometimes people have difficult life circumstances that make a particular mitzvah difficult, that is beyond the scope of this article – and it is worthwhile reaching out to a competent and sensitive Rabbi or mentor for advice as to how best to navigate their personal situation.
We have to make it sweet. How can we make Passover sweet? Are there extra things that we are doing that are taking us away from the sweetness and joy of the festival? As empowered people we have to ask ourselves – what can I do to maintain that sweetness and joy of the festival? Is it learning what is and isn’t required? Is it outsourcing some of the work so we can enter it with joy? Sometimes the cost can feel intimidating; we are given an assurance that whatever we spend to enhance the festival, within reason (i.e. that we would buy that if we had the money) will not cost us.
May we tap into what brings us joy this Pesach and experience the beauty, meaning and sweetness of the festival.