By Larry Gordon
Get out the shelving paper and the tape that fastens in such a way that it can never be unfastened. Here come the spring, this week’s snowstorm, my son’s wedding, and Pesach.
Just looking back for a moment, Purim was freezing but glorious. I still can recall a Purim that took place at the end of February when the outdoor temperature reached 72 degrees. Where did days like that go? Those young men jumping around dressed as emojis, slightly inebriated or pretending to be, must have been shivering all day long.
It seems that around here anyway, the stretch limousines are becoming passé, as consumers and the charitably inclined look for cost savings and more frugality than spending excessively on things like that.
Anyway, now with the chocolates packed away, the bottles of wine and liquor standing in solidarity with the bottles that came before them, and some of the cakes in the freezer until, well, maybe forever, it is now time—to the best of our abilities—to plan ahead.
It can snow deep into April, if the outdoor temperature allows it to. It can even snow on opening day at Citi Field or Yankee Stadium, and those much-anticipated, hallowed days are approaching. In a sense—and I don’t know if it was always like that, though I tend to think that it was not—these days we need to be prepared for every meteorological eventuality.
I can vividly recall a chol ha’moed Pesach with scorching heat in the mid-90s, and that infamous erev Pesach snowstorm in the early 1980s when people were stranded on the roads or holed up in motels on their way to the Catskills to spend the Pesach yom tov. Then there were the Pesach days when the rainfall did not cease for a moment, day or night; so much for the Festival of Spring.
I’m writing these words overnight, Monday into Tuesday morning, waiting for the monster storm to appear and paralyze the Northeast. The easiest thing would be to hunker down the next day and just wait for the storm to move out and allow the clean-up-the-mess people to do their thing. But no one is paying us to sit at home, and I always told my children that the guy on the radio or TV who is urging you to stay home somehow got to work, so we can figure out some way to get there, too.
Shortly after this midweek storm moves out of our area, the next thing for many will be stocking up on shelving or contact paper. In many of our homes, we use it to prepare for the arrival of kosher-for-Pesach foods that will shortly fill our cupboards. The paper helps in the creation of an environment untainted by any foods that contain chametz.
While the Pesach industry is huge, with people forever complaining about why we are paying so much more for foods that in many instances are the exact same things we purchase all year, no one has ever been able to do anything about it. So just let it be that paying the higher prices for these foods is part of the beautification or the self-sacrifice involved in doing these food-associated mitzvos.
Full disclosure warrants my stating that we are not lining our shelves this year—and it is not in protest or anything along those lines. Over the years, we have spent a fair number of Pesachs away, and we are planning to be away again this Pesach after having been home the past few Pesachs.
There is something appealing about going away for yom tov as well as those holidays spent at home. So after all these years, and even though we are going to one of those so-called Pesach hotels this year, I am still conflicted about what to do. Not that we need an excuse or a reason, but we are making a wedding at the end of this month and it takes a lot out of us. For months, we have been focused on the myriad details involved in delivering a simcha that pays proper tribute to the chassan and kallah as well as to the guests, many of whom are traveling from around the country and from Israel just to take part in the celebration.
So here are the drawbacks about both options. Going away involves lots of shopping and then the inevitable packing of suitcases, which we will begin to address immediately following the wedding. Being at home involves an enormous amount of food shopping. It’s one of the oddities of the chag that we celebrate by either cooking or preparing or purchasing enough food for at least a month while the ancient Hebrews left Egypt in a hurry with just about zero food provisions.
My personal preference is going away to one of these many specially-prepared-for-Pesach hotels. It is nice and relaxing. The focal point when you are away can be the davening and the family as opposed to at home where it is mostly about the food. Every yom tov largely revolves around the food and the shopping for food, but all that time spent in the kitchen (okay, sorry, but I have to say it—mostly by the women) detracts from the celebration and it becomes an intensive, constant chore.
When Pesach is properly done in an upscale hotel, you can rest assured that the chag will be celebrated more along the lines that it was intended to be.
While thousands of people pack out to hotels and homes in Florida or Israel for the yomim tovim, it is still a small percentage of the community that enjoys that type of indulgence. The overwhelming majority of community members are in their homes, with parents and children as well as grandchildren moving in and enjoying the beauty as well as the accompanying downside of all being together for a rather long stretch of time.
Some people I know have never spent a Pesach at home, at least not in the last 30 or so years. They don’t know what it is or what’s involved, and their children in some instances probably believe that it’s a religious obligation to travel to South Florida for Pesach.
That is just the nature of the inherent contradiction that exists in Jewish life today. I know people going to Italy and Greece, to Las Vegas and Los Angeles, all on the move because it is Pesach. Like the price of some foods for yom tov, it doesn’t pay to try to wrap your mind around this and understand it. It’s just what it is.
And now some thoughts on the upcoming wedding, may it take place in a good and propitious time. I hope it doesn’t snow that day. As stated above, there are numerous details to tend to, and hopefully we have a handle on all of them. It is exciting to observe the child you raised blossom into a remarkable young man who makes such an extraordinary impression not just here at home, but out there in the world.
Watching them grow and develop also presents one with a bit of a conflict because in a sense they are moving on to the next level of life. But on the other hand, we do not want these adults walking around in our homes suggesting to us better and different ways that we can do things. The chassan and kallah have an apartment nearby so they are not moving too far—well, not too far from us, anyway. The kallah is from Miami Beach, where it always seems to be 80 degrees and sunny.
The other night, her mother told me that she was home packing and preparing for her return to New York. I asked her if she was a little sad to see that happening, you know, moving out and so on. Well, she said, not really, as they will be seeing a lot of each other, and besides, her mom said, she always dreamed about living on Central Avenue in Lawrence.
If that’s the case, I said, here it is—a match made in heaven and a dream come true in more ways than one.
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